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Jan 23 2019

Everything You Need To Know Before Setting Your Running Goals

By Mekita Rivas, VIDA editor/member

Vida Fitness U-Street Jeffrey Horowitz

Jeff Horowitz

You don’t have to be a runner to have running goals. For many people, just getting started can be half the battle. Fortunately, Jeff Horowitz, personal trainer at VIDA Fitness U Street, is here to help. To say that Jeff enjoys running would be an understatement — he has completed nearly 200 marathons in his lifetime! If anyone can get you up and running (literally), this is the guy.

We caught up with Jeff, who’s also an expert running coach, to learn about the art of establishing running goals. Whether you’re a couch-to-5K newbie, a seasoned pro, or somewhere in the middle, these are tips and tricks that everyone can use.

Are there any common mistakes people make when they set their running goals?

Runners try to get back to where they were too quickly, or new runners become a little too ambitious. You really have to wait for your body to adapt if you rush your training, you’re much more likely to get injured.

What’s a good starting point for setting your goals?

In running we have a basic guideline for your progression: the rule of ten percent. Whatever distance you’re running so the longest run of the week and your total mileage for the week the safest way to progress and give your body time to adapt to avoid injury is to increase each of those by no more than 10 percent from week to week. It might not seem like much, and you might only be progressing five minutes a week, but you should not rush this process. There will be plenty of time to just sit and wait if you end up getting injured. If you take your time, the progress will come soon enough. Just be very patient with your body.

Jeff MCM

Jeff Horowitz has multiple marathons under his belt.

People can definitely get a little overzealous, especially at the beginning of the year. How do you tell clients to manage their expectations? 

Here in the Washington, D.C., area, we have a couple of big races coming up. These are popular, world-class events. People sign up for them, put them on their calendar, and boom, they’ve got this big goal. But the most important thing to do in training and it applies to everything you do physically is learn to be in partnership with your body rather than dictate to your body what to do. Whenever I have a racing goal, I always think, “OK, that’s my goal, but it’s not a firm deadline. This isn’t something that must happen no matter what.”

Have a goal that will get you inspired, develop a reasonable training plan on your own or with help preferably with a trainer from VIDA and then see how you develop. If everything’s going well, continue toward that goal. But sometimes it requires you to change your goal. Maybe you’re not ready for that race, or you’re not able to do it the way you originally planned to. But your body will tell you that, and you need to listen.

If somebody is essentially a total novice or they haven’t run in a long time, what do you typically tell them during your first training session? 

It’s interesting, because we learn how to run when we’re maybe two or three years old? You don’t think of it as a skill you need to hone in the way you would approach tennis, rowing, or any number of other sports. But there is a proper technique to running. It’s helpful to have a professional who will work with you, who knows what they’re looking for, who will put you on a treadmill and give you a data analysis, and who will see what you’re doing and see if the mechanics are correct.

That goes a long way to being more efficient and much less likely to get injured. It also helps you get faster. One of the basics I tell people in our first session is that above all other things, become aware of the sound of your running. I tell my clients: If you can run quietly and make as little noise with each footstep as you can, then you’ll really reduce the risk of injury. Avoiding a heavy foot strike putting this pressure and pounding on your body is one of the key things you can do to run healthier, and that’s something you should do from day one.

If your goal is running related, sometimes there’s a misconception that that’s all you need to do. What’s your response to that?

I get it. The runners who come to me love to run, and they don’t want to do a lot of other stuff. But if running is all you do, then you’re leaving weakness in other muscles that can come back to haunt you. Ninety percent of running injuries are due to weaknesses in the core area, which is going to lead to some kind of compromise in your form. It’s going to put stress on an area that can’t handle it, and that will lead to injury.

So even though you love to run or maybe it’s just your goal to become a runner, ignoring all the other things you need to do at the gym means you’re opening yourself up to injury. The more variety, the healthier you’ll be overall. At VIDA, there are so many different types of cardio work, strength training, classes, machines and free weights, and cables. You should constantly be able to challenge your body in different kinds of ways, and that will make you a stronger, more injury-resistant athlete. And it’s just a lot more fun that way, too, because you’re less likely to get bored. 

We’ve talked about newcomer runners, but for more experienced runners who may have specific goals in terms of setting a PR or logging certain miles every week, how does their training differ?

That’s a fun situation because now you’ve gone beyond basic competency, and you’ve got specific goals. Of course, that requires a more advanced type of training. We would incorporate varieties of running, like tempo runs and speed work, into our training. We might do plyometrics and explosive movements to build some of that strength and speed in your body to get you beyond just running.

Pacer imgWhat are the pros and cons between training indoors on a treadmill and running outside?

The bottom line is to go with whatever you’re comfortable with. It’s about being consistent, just getting out there, and doing it. The differences are not so great that one way is worse or better than the other. Whatever makes you happy, go ahead and do that and make the most of it.

Is there anything else you want to mention that we haven’t covered?

This should be fun! Sometimes you can get caught up in the data and the details, and you can be so performance-oriented that you forget it should be fun. One of my big mantras, especially as we go through the winter season when people get sick and they get colds and illnesses, is to be smarter than you are brave. Even if you’re sometimes brave enough to work out when you probably shouldn’t, it would be smarter not to. If you’re sick, if you’re injured, and if there’s something else going on in your life that needs attention, make sure you attend to that. VIDA will still be here for you when you’re ready. Be smart in your training, enjoy it, and have a healthy 2019!

Feb 27 2017

My 185th Marathon: Jeff Horowitz’s Personal Story

Jeff taking a quick water break during a 5 day race through the Himalayas!

Jeff taking a quick water break during a 5 day race through the Himalayas!

Jeff Horowitz has ran 184 marathons in his life (yes, you read that right) and is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. This U Street personal trainer has ran a marathon in every US state, plus one in every continent except South America (yes, even Antarctica.) He describes his love for running as “not obsessed, just enthusiastic”  and credits his marathon hobby as the reason he’s been able to see so much of the world.

Plans for marathon #185, the 2017 London Marathon on April 23rd are already in the works. Though this one feels a little different for Jeff, who says this one will be much more than just another 26 mile run.

Jeff lost his dad to a heart attack in 1989, shortly after he was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma. It became important for him to find a way to combine his passion for running with honoring his late father and he began seeking out charities that combat blood cancer. He found and registered for the upcoming London Marathon as a member of the Anthony Nolan Fund charity team, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the lives of people living with blood cancer. When he runs on April 23rd, he’ll be running in memory of his father.

“This race feels totally different, because it’s not just about me running a bunch of miles and patting myself on the back. I’m running for a greater cause that gives meaning to those 26 miles,” says Jeff.

Jeff’s fundraising page can be found here, and he’d love to get as many supporters as possible to help him reach (or better, pass!) his $2,500 fundraising goal.

“I like to view my running this marathon as a catalyst to do some good in the world, and I’m proud to be running in honor of my father. The more people we can get involved, the better!” he says.

So how exactly does Jeff manage to run roughly seven marathons a year without his body falling apart?

He credits his vast knowledge of running mechanics (he’s written three books, with a 4th on the way, on running and endurance training and works as a triathlon coach,) along with taking care of and listening to his body to keep him in top running shape. Jeff Horowitz

His philosophy when it comes to training is, ‘we do the work in here (the gym,) so we can be prepared for adventures out there.’ That means lots of muscle recovery time, stretching, foam rolling, and strengthening exercises to prepare for whatever race is coming next. He emphasizes that sometimes we have to be smarter than we are brave, and listen to what our bodies are telling us in terms of recovery.

If you’re interested in improving your running form, email Jeff at Jeffrey.Horowitz@msn.com to schedule a training session. He loves teaching new or seasoned runners how to adopt a more healthful and sustainable mode of training for a lifetime of injury-free running and racing, and encouraging beginning runners to sign up for their first races.

“I’m a big believer in doing things that you’re not sure you can. I think it’s good to scare yourself sometimes,” says Jeff.

To learn more about Jeff’s training and triathlon coaching programs, you can visit his website at www.runhorowitz.com.

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