How They Train!

T. Alan Cox - April 2012


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How many years have you been running?

  • Played adult softball and flag football in my 20’s and 30’s, started competitively racing road races and triathlons at age 40, so going on 12 years.  

Lifetime personal records

  • I won the Gulf Winds Age Group Grand Prix and the Gulf Winds Triathlon Age Group Grand Prix in the same year.  I was second overall in the Triathlon Grand Prix this past year.  I’ve had a handful of PR’s since I’ve entered my 50’s.  I’m proud of that but it also helps that I did not competitively race until age 40.   

Consider your training over the past 6 months to one year.  How many miles a week do you typically run when not injured and consistently running?

  • I run between 40 and 55 miles per week year-round.  

What does your typical week of running look like?

  • Monday:  Pilates at 5:15 am, Spin class at 6:00 am, Swim at 5:00 pm
  • Tuesday:  Intervals  5:15 am (4mi run to track, 3mi intervals, 4mi run home), Weights at 5:00 pm
  • Wednesday:    Bike at 5:15 am, Swim at 5:00 pm, Tempo Run 6:00 pm (5 miles)
  • Thursday:   Easy Run at 5:15 am (10 miles), Bike at 5:00 pm
  • Friday:   Pilates at 5:15 am, Weights at 6:00 am, Swim at 5:00 pm
  • Saturday:  Bike at 8:00 am, Brick Run after bike (5 miles)
  • Sunday:  Long run at 6:00 am (15 to 20 miles), Bike at 3:00 pm

How does your training vary over the course of a year?

  • Twenty milers are tough in the summer months, so I reduce the mileage during the really hot months and make up the difference on the bike.     

Do you take recovery or down time?

  • Big topic of conversation with my running group.  We all agree that for some reason it just naturally happens (vacations, sick, minor injury, work) just life in general causes me to reduce mileage here and there.  Basically, because my schedule as a high school principal is so busy and scripted I naturally miss some of my weekly training regiment from time to time.  

Do you peak for certain races?

  • Yes, I definitely enter every race with the intention of doing the best I can, but I pick a handful to target every year. Usually I’ll pick a marathon, one 5k, and one 10k to see if I can PR.

How much sleep do you usually get at night?

  • Got to get 7 hours but do my best to get 8 hours.  

What time of day do you normally run?

  • Most of my running is at 5:15 in the morning.  I run a lot better on an empty stomach and that 5:15am slot is never interrupted with meetings and the like.

What injuries have hampered your training over the past year? 

  • I have been very fortunate the last couple of years, but I have had every running injury you can name, for the exception of my knees (knock on wood, they are good).  Stress fractures plagued me for many years.  I’ve dealt with plantar fasciitis, but IT band is the injury I try to avoid.  It will absolutely bring me to a stop.  

Do you take any dietary or medical supplements?

  • I take calcium, magnesium, and D3 every day.

What type of running shoes do you prefer?

  • Love Asics Nimbus for training and most of the Brooks shoes for high arch runners.

Do you race in a different type of running shoe?

  •   Have raced my last couple of marathons in Brooks Ghost.  I have a pair of racing flats from Brooks that weigh about 5.5 ounces and I’ll use them for a 5k/10k I’m attempting to PR.

Do you use weight training?

  • I lift arms and back on Tuesday afternoon and chest and shoulders on Friday afternoon.  I do a brief leg work out after my upper body workout on both days.  Weights is probably an area where I have changed the most since I was in my 20’s.  My father was a fullback at FSU in the 1950’s and a very successful high school football coach.  Therefore, I grew up with the mentality of lifting heavy.  After a shoulder surgery or two I now lift more reps and lighter weight.I cannot say enough good things about Pilates.  I am humbled by the folks in my Pilates class and the benefits strong abs, hips, and back have for running.

Do you stretch? 

  • Don’t follow my example here, I stretch very little.  However, I do warm up well before all of my workouts.  

What are your favorite running routes?

  • I run Maclay Gardens Lake Overstreet every Sunday Morning. I run Chiles track for speed work every Tuesday morning and, I run Summerbrook golf course every Thursday morning.  I will change it up from time to time and run Forest Meadows but my running partner, Mike Martinez, needs therapy every time I change our routine so I pretty much don’t change routes.

What running resources do you like that would benefit someone else?

  •  Highly recommend Runner’s World magazine.   

If you have been running for many years, how has your training changed over the years

  • By far, my biggest change has been to do my long slow runs, long and slow. I give full credit to my running partners, Mike Martinez and Steve Steverson. I use to push the pace on all my workouts and of course suffered several injuries. I started training with Mike about 5 years ago. We run our long days at 1.5 to 2.0 minutes below marathon pace. This has allowed me more energy for my quality (speed day) on Tuesday’s and has allowed me to recover for other work outs quicker. It has actually allowed me to increase my mileage which has several benefits (burn more calories, increase time on feet, increase capillary development in legs, etc.)

What examples can you give of specific training methods, and what were the results?

  • Do your long slow days, long and slow; don’t listen to the non-sense about junk miles.  Running at any pace is beneficial.  One of my favorite track work outs is a descending ladder (1200, 800, 400, 400, 800, 1200) at 5k pace with a jog lap in between.  This will help with avoiding injury because you are not jumping into a 400 right off the bat but you are pushing the threshold.   

What advice do you have for beginning or experienced runners to help them with their training?

  • The best thing any runner, swimmer, biker, can do for themselves is to find a training group.  I am so fortunate to train with quality people like Mike Martinez, Steve Steverson, Jim Philips, and Mike Baker.  We hold each other accountable and discuss many issues in our training time.  I would say we are all competitive but also very supportive.  Mike is the compulsive lawyer that will not let us cut any miles, Steve is the doctor that attempts to remind us when we need to cut back, and Jim is the athlete that reminds us how good he was “in the day”.  Just kidding guys!