How to Avoid (Post-Race) Couch Potato Syndrome


The Washington Post recently published an opinion article titled Couch potato athletes: Why it’s hard to stay active after competition ends.

According to a study by researcher Shawn Sorenson, who examined the exercise habits of 500 students and alumni from the University of Southern California, some of whom are current or former student-athletes, former elite athletes were just as likely to be couch potatoes as people who were never athletes to begin with.


A bit of a surprise, if you ask me. I’ve always envisioned those former college basketball or track stars as continuing their athletic dominance well into the late stages of life.

So how is it that people who spent nearly enough hours each week to fill a full-time job, working out and training during their college careers, could go from elite status to couch potato?

According to the article, it’s all about structure and self-discipline.

Or lack thereof.

“From a young age, modern athletes become accustomed to executing a carefully planned training regimen under constant guidance and oversight. They are supported by an ever-growing infrastructure of coaches, trainers and support staff. College athletes might have a head coach, position coach, strength and conditioning coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist, dietician, sports psychologist, and academic counselor assigned to them.”

When they graduate, or quit playing at a professional level, all that structure disappears.

And what happens then?

They are left with nothing but self-motivation to keep them active. Unfortunately, many of those athlete’s self-motivation was tied directly to the structured training and love of competition.

You and I Are Like Elite Athletes

For those of us who have never raced or performed at an elite level, we’ve probably never experienced the same type of structure college athletes experience.

But I’d argue that when your training for a race, the same sense of structure comes from our training plans.

We’re “required” to run certain miles on certain days, for example.

And even though no one is threatening to take away our scholarship money, if we have a long run scheduled on a Saturday, you better believe we’re going to feel pressured to go to bed early on Friday night.

We have a plan and a structure, and we experience the requirements of the training.

Just like the elites.

And what often happens once the race is over and we no longer have a structured training plan?

We fall into that same trap. Our structure and support disappears overnight and we get lazy.

Couch potato lazy.

Thankfully, there are ways out. We don’t have to turn our love of running into a love for Cappuccino flavored chips and Coors Light.

4 Ways to Avoid Dreaded Couch Potato Syndrome

1) Set up a support network

Whether you’re an elite athlete or training for your first marathon, having a support network is a big part of what keeps you motivated and sane through weeks of tough training.

The same type of network should be used for when you’re not officially training:

  • Join a local training group or running club that meets regularly. Even after a race is over.
  • Ask running friends to join you for regular weekday runs.
  • Join social networks like Stava or Daily Mile, with people that will hold you accountable to get out and log miles.

2) Set New Goals

This is one of my favorite techniques.

For many years, I wouldn’t complete a race without having signed up for my next race first. That meant I always had a race scheduled, and knew that after a short break, I’d have to fall back in with a new structured training plan.

I no longer have that rule, but I do follow the same principals. Before running any race I’ll look towards the months ahead. What are my new goals? What challenge do I want to tackle next? I will often even write the answers down to make them more permanent.

After the race, I have those goals already determined so I can start focusing on what needs to happen to do to make them a reality.

I create a need for the structure that keeps me focused and motivated.

3) Experiment and play with new challenges

The end of one challenge is the perfect opportunity to try something new.

Did you just run a road marathon? Start going to trail runs a few times a week.

Did you finish your first ultramarathon? Pick up the pace by adding speed work back into your routine.

Need a total break from running? Don’t use that as an excuse to quit working out altogether:

  • Join an adult soccer, basketball, or flag-football team.
  • Dust off the bike and go for long rides with your family or friends.
  • Sign up for a bike century and raise money for a charity.
  • Jump in the pool for a few laps.

Instead of treating the new freedom as a reason to sit around being lazy, treat it like you just gained the liberty to try something new.

4) Hire a running coach, even if you aren’t training

I’m willing to bet that if you’ve ever worked with a running coach, it was because you wanted help training for a particular race.

But running coaches aren’t just good for new races, they can also help you maintain and continue to build your strength, and put you in the perfect position to start training for the next big challenge once you are ready.

Have a running coach design your running schedule and hold you accountable. It can be just the type of structure needed to keep you focused and off the couch.

Don’t Be A Couch Potato

I’m the first to admit that being a total laze-ball sounds like a lot of fun. And so much less painful than a long run.

But it also doesn’t sound rewarding.

That feeling of relaxation and comfort can only last so long before it starts getting boring and you start getting restless. By then the bad habits have already started forming and strength has already been lost.

Which means coming out of your Frito-Lay coma will be that much harder.

Don’t turn into a couch potato. It isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds.

How Personalized Training Plans and Coaching Can Help You Reach Your Running Goals


If I were to tell you that all runners need a coach to complete their first ultramarathon, I’d be lying.

I didn’t have one, after all.

But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have seen major benefits from personalized plans. And I know I would have benefited from the coaching.

Back in January, I released Discover Your Ultramarathon: A Beginner’s Guide to Running an UltramarathonIt has been a total blast hearing from runners all over the world that used the guide to run successful races. The general guidebook and training plans have been working.

And that makes me one very happy runner.

But I’ve also been hearing from runners who need more.

Not because the guide, interviews, and training plans aren’t thorough enough, but because they want someone to be there when they have questions. Someone to motivate them when training gets hard. And someone to create a training plan to perfectly fit their goals and race needs.

They wanted a personalized plan and a coach to assist them throughout training.

So it got me thinking. How can I best help runners train smart, race well, and run successful trail races and ultramarathons?

The only answer was to start offering what people told me they needed.

So I enrolled in a coaching course with USATF (USA Track and Field), spoke with other coaches, and really dialed in on my own experience running and training for ultramarathons.

I could have started offering these services long ago, but I wanted to first make sure I was fully prepared for every unique situation. If a runner is going to put their trust in me, I wanted to be ready.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s take a step back and talk about the benefits of coaches and personalized plans.

How a Coach Can Help You Train Smarter

Like I said before, not all runners need or want a coach. Those runners might feel completely fine using generic plans and figuring the rest out on their own.

But that’s not the case for everyone. For many runners, general information isn’t enough. They want things like:

  • Proven advice when training questions arise
  • Someone to lend support and hold them accountable
  • Training plans built just for their needs and goals
  • The ability to change course if training takes a turn

These are just a few examples of what a coach can do for runners.

There’s nothing wrong with going at it alone, but having a coach supporting you through the training process is guaranteed to make for a better, more successful experience.

Personalized Trail and Ultra Training Plans and Coaching

That’s what all this boils down to, making sure you have the best and most successful training and racing experience possible. That’s what I strive for with Discover Your Ultramarathon, and that’s what I know will be possible through the personalized plans and coaching.

Starting today, I’m taking Discover Your Ultramarathon to the next level.

The guidebook will still be available on its own, but I’m now offering personalized training plans, designed specifically for you and your goals, as well as one-on-one coaching.

In other words, you can now get Discover Your Ultramarathon and a coach all at once.

Click here to find out exactly how it works, the different plans, and exactly how I plan to help you train for your first or next ultramarathon or trail race.

And because it’s launch week and I’m so excited to get started, this week only I’m offering the plans at a 15% discount. That sale will end at midnight on Sunday, July 27th.

I know the idea of having a coach might feel new to some of you, so if you have any questions or hesitations, you should always feel free to contact me directly.

Find out how I can help you train smarter, run longer, and reach your goals here.

This is going to be fun.

3 Must-Do Drills for Trail Runners


Do you remember your first trail run?

I do.

I came home exhausted, with dirty shoes, sore ankles, and a stubbed big toe. Immediately I knew I wanted more, but unfortunately I had no idea what I was doing.

So what I decided to do was to keep going back, pushing a little too hard, getting a little too dirty, and continuing to annoy my ankles, toes, and knees.

Instead, what I should have done, is realize that trail running is a different sport than road running, and needs to be treated as such.

It requires the use of different muscles and challenges your balance and stability in new ways.

If I was smart, I would have started training for the new sport instead of jumping in head first with serious risk of injury.

Now don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get excited about trails like I did. Nor am I saying you should avoid them (in fact, I’m constantly pushing for the opposite!).

But what I am saying is that when you start running trails, begin by learning the differences between roads and trails, and prep yourself for those differences.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest differences between roads and trails on the body is the use of new muscles in the feet, ankles, knees, and legs. To prep for that, I suggest to all new trail runners that they practice certain drills to build strength and technique.

But this advice doesn’t apply just to runners new to trails. We should all keep up with drills, even after years of experience.

Why Keeping Up With Drills Is Important

After awhile, once you’re comfortable running trails and dealing with uneven ground, it’s easy to fall into the routine of lacing up your shoes and hitting the trail without doing any sort of continued strength work.

I know because it happens to me.

I don’t particularly enjoy doing drills. They aren’t nearly as fun as running quickly through the woods or soaking in an overlook, so why spend my workout time hopping around?

Let me answer with a story.

Last week, while running down a steep hill towards the end of a 9 mile loop, I landed awkwardly on a loose rock. My ankle twisted, plunging me forward while I let out a yelp. Finding myself on the ground confused by what happened, I jumped up to keep going, but was immediately halted due to a sharp pain in my left ankle.


I wobbled around the near vertical trail trying to walk it off.

Many more expletives.

After a few minutes I tried running, but just a few steps later was reduced to walking. I hobbled another half mile before I could start jogging the last few hundred meters to my car.

Upon arriving home I immediately employed the R-I-C-E treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for a few hours, and by the end of the day the pain had subsided and I was able to walk without much discomfort.

Thankfully I dodged that bullet, but it was an immediate reminder that I need to take care of myself.

I need to continue to work the muscles tested on the trail, and not just by testing them on the trail but with targeted drills.

3 Drills for Trail Runners

Here are my 3 favorite drills that work the appropriate muscles for trail runners. Practice them often.

1) Hops

Benefits: Builds leg strength and agility.

Instructions: Find a picnic table, bench, or set of stairs. Place feet hip distance apart and drive from your lower legs to hop up onto the platform. Land on the balls of your feet. Complete 2-4 sets of 5 jumps once or twice a week.

This is an easy drill to perform when you just have a few minutes, plus you look wicked cool hopping up on a picnic table.

2) Four Square Drill

Benefits: Builds ankle and knee strength and durability, and trains agility and quick foot placements.

Directions: Draw a 2ft x 2ft square on the ground. Jump with both feet together from the center to outside the square and back to center. Rotate between all four sides. Repeat in opposite direction.

After completing the drill with two feet, repeat using only one foot at a time.

If it’s good enough for Mike Wolfe (featured in this video), it’s most certainly good enough for me.

3) Bounding

Benefits: Builds explosiveness in the legs, corrects running form, and improves your uphill running technique.

Directions: Take long strides while running, concentrating on getting the knees up high and really exploding off the back leg. Run for roughly 100 meters. Repeat two or three times.

This is a classic running drill, used by sprinters and distance runners alike. It also is a great drill for trail runners.

BONUS: Hill Running

This one isn’t really a drill, but I just can’t leave it out. Hill workouts are important for all runners, but even more so for trail runners, mostly because trails are often littered with hills.

The best way to feel strong and comfortable running both up and down hills on the trail is to practice. Once a week, add a few repeats on a tough trail hill after your run. The uphill will help build explosive strength as you climb, and proper downhill technique will add to strength in the knees and legs.

And the mental and physical comfort you gain from practicing on the hills will having a lasting impact on your daily runs.

Now it’s your turn. Do you practice drills regularly? Which are your favorite?

Reminder: Custom Plans and Coaching Announcement

coaching_adJust a quick reminder about last week’s announcement that Rock Creek Runner will start offering trail and ultramarathon custom training plans and coaching! I’m finalizing all the details and goodies as we speak, but everything is on schedule to launch early next week.

The goal of this new offer is to take Discover Your Ultramarathon to a new level, and have a more hands on approach when assisting the runners that want that custom touch reach their unique ultramarathon goals.

If you’re considering an ultramarathon or trail race, and want to be the first to receive information on how you can run a strong and smart race through custom training and coaching, sign up now.

Don’t forget that those who express interest early get a very special thank you: A 15% discount on RCR training plans and coaching. For life. Plus an even more special offer to be announced once everything goes live next week. Neither of these offers will be available to those who don’t sign up ahead of time, so sign up now!

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Sometimes I have plenty to say, but other times it is best to let the others do the talking. Every day I read something inspiring, informative, or just plain fun, and it seems selfish not to help spread the word about these great articles, videos, and podcasts. I’ve decided to try something a little different. Continue Reading

OGIO Endurance 8.0 Pack Review (Video)

Sometimes you buy a product and think to yourself, “eh, it’ll do.” But other times you pick up a product and know after first use that it is really going to make your life easier. I didn’t actually buy the OGIO Endurance 8.0 Pack, it was given to me for Christmas by my mother, butContinue Reading

The ABCs of Healthy Running

This post is written by Jennifer Heidmann First, a disclaimer. Though I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. I do not herein offer official medical advice. Read at your own risk. If you are new to running, or planning a great big new running feat, check in with your doctor first. I haveContinue Reading

One Word Changed My Training Forever

I discovered a new word this year. Well, I guess I’ve known the word for a long time, but this year brought it new meaning. Consistency.  Yeah, I’m sure you know the word as well. Over the past several months, I’ve really begun to adopt this word as my main focal word for running.  I’veContinue Reading

New Free eBook: The Power of a Running Mantra

There is just no way around it. Running is tough. I recently experienced this firsthand, several hours into the Mount Mitchell Challenge, when my legs were on fire and my mind was starting to doubt a finish. Had it not been for the 7 word phrase I repeated dozens of times, I might still beContinue Reading


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