Getting your Protein

Now that you are into endurance training, consider your recovery from workouts. You need between 0.55 and 0.65 grams of protein per pound of body weight [1]. A 160 pound runner needs 88g to 104g of protein per day. Optimally you want 20g of protein immediately after a workout, mixed with carbohydrates in a 4:1 ratio (80g to 120g carbs) [2]. Most people cannot convert more than 30g at a time, and the excess may be converted to fat stores [1].

A variety of protein sources is a healthy choice, so mix it up. Note that chocolate milk has a 4:1 carb/protein ratio in a handy container. For a solution that does not need to be kept cool, bring a bottle with pre-measured protein powder that just needs water added. Here are some other options:

  • 1 egg = 6g protein
  • 6oz salmon = 34g
  • 1 cup quinoa = 8g
  • 1 cup lentils = 18g
  • 1oz almonds = 6g
  • half cup cottage cheese = 14g
  • 1 cup milk = 8g
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal = 6g


  1. Matthew Kadey M.S., R.D. on a article “The Skinny on Protein”
  2. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, from the same article.

And some additional reading:


Looking for a good and quick pre-run snack?

For those who have read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, you know the Tarahumara runners eat chia seeds (ancient superfood) for fuel and energy on their ultra runs (50 – 100 miles).  Chia seeds are high in protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, calcium, iron, manganese and phosphorous. When soaked in water, they form a thick, gel like mass. It is believed when Chia seeds are eaten, the gel-forming reaction occurs in the stomach, forming a barrier between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar. The result is a super slow release of energy. The other result of this gel-forming reaction is the retention of water which means water loss is minimized and electrolyte balance is maintained for longer.  The Tarahumara combine chia seeds, water and lemon or lime to form a thick drink they consume before their runs. On half and full-day trail runs, I eat the dry seeds and chase it with water.

I have experimented with chia seeds during my training and I find they are quick and easy to eat before a run.  My favorite pre-run snack is to eat 3 or 4 spoons of Chocolate Chia Pudding which combines the benefits of chia with cocoa powder (caffeine), brown sugar (quick energy) and soy milk (calcium). Enjoy!

Chocolate Chia Pudding

  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup soy milk (original or chocolate … for a real chocolaty experience)

Mix cocoa powder and brown sugar together until smooth.  Stir in chia seeds and soy milk.  Let mixture rest and then stir again.  Repeat a few times for 20 minutes.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.


  • If you want some extra caffeine, add 1 tsp. instant coffee powder to the pudding.
  • If you want some extra energy, drizzle 2 tsp. honey over pudding.

Can I shuffle my workout days?

Yes, but carefully. Good training plans incorporate multiple cycles. Weekly cycles (microcycles) will balance harder workout days with easy or rest days to follow. The fitness response/benefit happens during the recovery after a workout. Likely, 48 hours is the sweet spot for recovery, but everyone is unique and needs to factor in the usual suspects (age, fitness level, propensity for injury, stress, fuel, rest, sleep, sleep, and sleep). The real recovery comes during deep sleep [video] [article].

Longer cycles (mesocycles of 3 to 6 weeks) will have a gradual build up and then a lighter week for recovery for both the physical and mental aspects of long-term training. This is where you schedule your tune up races or vacations/travel.

The big picture planning (macrocycles) considers your running year where you schedule one or two “prime” races or events along with family and work commitments (this makes for interesting discussions). This prioritization is a key element for successful running and planning.

Yes, you can swap the days you schedule your tempo runs with your speed workouts and/or your long runs – but maybe not stacking your hardest workouts too close together. For you, maybe 36 hours is all you need after your long run on Saturday morning so you can do your speed work on Monday night and then tempo run on Wednesday morning. On a monthly scale, you can move your “easy” week to match your vacation. On an annual cycle you might take a 12 week plan and fit it into 13 weeks with a break (for vacation or a small taper heading into a tune-up race).

Why hill repeats?

Many races advertise a “fast and flat” course however, this does not mean “flat as a pancake”. It is very common for courses to have rolling hills and if you have not trained for these elevation changes, you may feel like you are scaling a massive mountain every time you encounter a hill. Around Lethbridge you can experience rolling hills along 11th or 12th Street South, between 6th and 10th Avenue.

Hill repeats can make you a stronger, faster and healthier runner by:

  • Improving your leg muscle strength.
  • Quickening your stride (uphill).
  • Expanding your stride length (downhill).
  • Developing your cardiovascular system.
  • Enhancing your running economy.
  • Protecting your leg muscles against soreness.
  • Being a replacement for sprint workouts.

You can reap the benefits of hill repeats very quickly.  In as little as six weeks of regular hill repeats, you can expect a significant improvement in your muscle power and speed.

Here is a short video on the benefits of hill repeats:

Knowledge & Performance: Hills

Knowledge & Performance: Downhills

Why speed intervals?

If you feel the need-for-speed, you obviously need to train faster to race faster. Short bursts of speed (never all-out) can improve your physical performance in many areas including:

  • Muscle capacity.
  • Heart function.
  • Oxygen delivery.
  • Running mechanics.
  • Coordination of body parts and muscles.

More importantly, speed workouts can improve your mental performance as you see yourself as someone who:

  • Can continue when tired.
  • Can handle any setback.
  • Can improve.
  • Can overcome physical barriers.
  • Can become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • Has confidence and a positive mental outlook on running (and life).

However, speed workouts increase the risk of physical injury (if you try to do too much, too soon, too often) and mental injury (if you let your ego or negative emotions takeover).  The only way to prevent these injuries is to listen to your body and mind … adjust the workout if you feel physical pain or are experiencing negative self-talk.

Strive to find enjoyment in every speed workout … especially the tough ones! There is nothing more satisfying than “nailing” a speed workout session.

I just started “running”. Now what?

If you are between the Learn to Run program and the Marathon club, you have some options for the next step. If you just enjoy running and have no urge to “race”, then just enjoy running. Be mindful of changes to your running intesity and volume by not doing too much, too soon, or too often. A good rule of thumb is to limit your changes to 10% per week (how fast, how often, and how many miles).

If you want to improve your running:

  • Set a running goal such as entering a race, keeping up with a friend/spouce, or running faster than your dog or 10 year old.
  • Choose a training plan that incorporates your current fitness abilities, running goal(s), and a strategy on how to fit this into your busy calendar.
  • Consider joining a formal or informal running group that meets your specific training needs.
  • Attend running clinics or camps to learn more about proper running technique and drills.
  • Read running books, magazines, and online resources for inspiration and training strategies.

For assistance with any of the above, consider the services of a personal running coach.

How to select a training plan for running success

If your running goal includes setting a PR (personal record), then you need to make changes to your previous plan – if you had a “plan”. Most runners will see progressions early, without much planning or structured training due to starting at a PR of “zero”.  You should see quick gains from your body getting efficient at moving at a faster-than-walking pace through muscle and limb co-ordination. Then expect some advances in your cardiovascular fitness with regular outings. At some point, you will likely plateau and to “get faster” you will need to add some structure to your running efforts – things like speed intervals, hill repeats, tempo runs, and the long slow distance runs. Most off-the-shelf training plans that include 3 days per week of structured running will take you to the next level of PR.

To advance past this intermediate level of running, which may be getting you into the top 5 of your age group in local races, you will need to step-up to “training with a purpose”. This is where every workout has a purpose to create a training-effect on your body. The key is to prescribe the “effective dose” of training without pushing past your limits towards injury. To balance between loading and over-loading the body, the right amount of recovery/rest needs to be inserted. All of this is unique to you.

So how do you get there? First, you need to understand your current fitness level and abilities. Set a realistic goal based on your expected fitness gains and lifestyle. You also need to understand your safe-load-level (training miles per week and running/rest days per week) along with the type of workouts that are easy for you and the ones that are a challenge. Add to this, strategies for improving the “weak links” in your running to become a better athlete.

Please contact me to be a strategic partner in your running success.

Do you need a Running Coach?

Do you want to take your running to the next level? Are you in a running rut? Do you need objective and honest feedback from a running mentor?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may benefit from a running coach. A coach can:

  • Design a customized training plan based on your current fitness level and future goals.
  • Integrate running drills to improve running strength, economy, and injury prevention.
  • Develop a race plan with detailed pacing and fueling strategies.
  • Recommend appropriate cross training activities based on fitness level and schedule.
  • Introduce you to new training methods and workouts.
  • Encourage you to listen to your body’s feedback.
  • Help you find the optimal balance between training stress and recovery.
  • Work with you to reach your running potential.
  • Provide a breadth of experience and knowledge.

Please contact me if you need a Running Coach. I am eager to contribute to your running success.

Coach Dean Johnson


Want to improve your running performance?  Want to set a new PR (personal record) or work towards qualifying for the Boston Marathon?

Whether you are new to running or a seasoned veteran, I can develop a personalized training plan to help you achieve your running goals while recognizing you have a life outside of running.  Whether your goal is to complete a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon or Marathon, I can develop a 10 to 16 week training plan designed for you.  All you need to do is to complete a Running Goals and Lifestyle Questionnaire and I will develop a training plan with a specific target and structure for every run.

If you have more specific needs, I can provide personal coaching in running fundamentals, running drills, or running strategies.