Client Spotlight: Leiter K.
By Chris Mullins
Leiter began training with me back in January 2015 to incorporate strength training into his running routine. He had gone through physical therapy to rehab a calf injury sustained while running back in August of 2014, but was still experiencing some lingering effects. His initial assessment revealed some common imbalances, as well as high training volume. Put these two elements together–repeated overload on a compromised foundation–and it’s not surprising that Leiter’s body started to break down. So the approach was simple:
- Address imbalances
- Reduce training volume (# of days and total weekly running mileage)
However, as always the approach may be simple but the implementation is rarely easy. Fortunately, Leiter is a fantastic client with an aptitude toward structure and routine. Without further ado, here is Leiter’s story.
What was your most recent race time, and how did it compare to your previous race times?
I ran 1:38:45 in the NYC Half Marathon in March, which was a personal record. My previous PR was 1:40:13 in the Providence Rock ‘n’ Roll back in August 2012. I also ran 1:46:26 this past October, but that was my first race back from injury.
Why did you come to The Training Room? What were your goals?
I came to the TR about 4 months after getting what was probably a grade 2 calf strain. I think I did all the right things in terms of recovery (see a sports medicine doctor at MGH, rest for a few weeks to let the muscle heal, and then see a physical therapist), but I was still feeling a twinge of tightness or pain at the site of the injury when I went out for very slow jogs. I wasn’t sure that I would get back to normal.
I had a couple of friends who were going to the TR at the time, and they had good experiences, so I decided to check it out.
What problems did you encounter in previous half-marathons?
My calves were tight all the time, and they were prone to cramping at every distance from a 10k and up. I was running more days and miles (5 days a week then vs. 3 now) and doing more intense runs (intervals, tempo runs). My form was probably awful. I tried to get faster by powering through my runs, and I think my right side ended up being much stronger than my left. I did try some strength work on my own using exercises from the Pfitzinger marathon book, but I didn’t notice any results. My guess is that my lifting form was poor and there was no periodization built into the program.
What changes have you noticed since starting a strength training program? (Running and otherwise)
My everyday posture is better; my parents used to complain all the time that I slouched too much. I feel stronger in general. Chris has done a really good job in addressing my calves. I usually don’t feel tight there anymore, and I remember my injury only when people ask me about it. I feel strong at the end of my runs.
These days, I do most of my runs by feel, not time, and I have often been surprised by how fast I run the last mile of my longer runs.
[Chris’ note: As with many overuse or non-contact injuries, the injury site is rarely the root of the issue. While Leiter’s calves may have felt “tight,” we did no direct stretching of the calves but instead addressed patterns that would reduce the workload placed on the calves due to the imbalances both objectively observed (screens, tests) and subjectively reported (client-reported “feel”) during his initial assessment and early sessions.]
What have you learned about yourself over the past year while training for the last few half marathons?
I think I’ve learned to listen to my body more because I’ve had to pay attention to form and body position for the mobility drills and strength training exercises. I’ve learned that my body does respond well to strength training if done correctly. And I’ve learned that I don’t need to run my body into the ground to race well.
You are signed up for the Run to Remember in May. What is your goal for this race?
The race is one of the flattest half marathons around, especially when the course doesn’t include the Longfellow Bridge, so I am expecting a slight PR. I ran NYC conservatively because of the hills in Central Park in the first half and I didn’t think I was in as good a shape as I was (my guess the day before was 1:42:30). I think I will be happy if I run 1:37:15. There are a number of factors that could slow me down, including the temperature in late May but, like NY, I’ll run this race by feel, and maybe I’ll surprise myself with the time.
UPDATE: Leiter ran a 1:38:51 at the Run To Remember on Sunday, May 29th. Although he did not set a new PR, he essentially ran 2 half marathons in 2 months within 6 seconds of each other with very little break. Most importantly, he was not sidelined by his calves like previous races. Through dedication to strength training, and by working not just hard, but also smart, Leiter was able to achieve consistent results.
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