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Even though my last installment of Ask Coach Deb was over a year and a half ago, I’ve worked with several running clients during the time span since that last edition. My running clients usually meet with me in person every few months to discuss how their training is going, update goals, and make adjustments to new training cycles. I’ll focus on the questions of those clients for this installment of Ask Coach Deb.

If you have any questions you’d like for me to address in a future Ask Coach Deb, please send your training and running questions my way by commenting below.


Question:  What do you think about training on a treadmill?

Coach Deb:  I highly recommend training on a surface most similar to what you’ll be running on – for road races train on roads and paved trails and for trail races train on dirt trails under similar conditions to the race (i.e. hilly, root covered, etc.) Of course, treadmills are wonderful options when the weather outside is extremely bad (icy, windy, frigid) and running outdoors would be dangerous.


Question: What’s your opinion on using energy gels while running?

Coach Deb: I’m a big fan of gels and my current preference is Honey Stinger Gel or Honey Stinger Chews (affiliate links) because neither upset my stomach the way some other brands do. Other brands you might want to also consider if your stomach isn’t as rebellious as mine include GU, Clif Shot, and Power Gel (all affiliate links).

It’s generally a good idea to take in about 100 calories for every 45-minutes you’re running, assuming your tank was topped off prior to your run (good breakfast). Always hydrate with your fuel intake. Also worth noting, energy gels absorb quickly into the bloodstream so they provide almost instant energy, whereas bars and other fuels take about 45 minutes to provide that energy burst.


Question:  Should I change my running form?

Coach Deb: First off, I don’t like to change running form on someone who’s been running for several years. As I mention in Running Form in the Coaching tab of my blog, making major changes to running form can result in a new set of injuries. Make smart changes because something feels wrong, rather than trying to make major changes just because someone told you that you should. If you consider making any changes, practice them during shorter runs and preferably between training cycles.

One of the best ways for me to critique running form is to have the runner run back and forth in front of me a few times while the camera is rolling – I try to distract them with conversation so they don’t subconsciously change their form to what they think it correct.

Next we watch the video together and I stop the frames as necessary to comment on stride length, how they land, etc. Specific points we discuss include:

  • Are they running tall with a slight forward lean from the hips?
  • Is their head neutral to slightly forward?
  • Are they looking ahead about a car length and not downward?
  • Are they holding their arms at 90° and swinging them front to back, not side to side?
  • Do they have their hands slightly cupped instead of squeezing them tightly?
  • How does their foot land? Does their heel hit first indicating over-striding? If so, I have them shorten their stride and pick up the turnover rate; however, if that doesn’t feel natural I recommend they return to their normal stride and gradually practice making changes during their training runs. For many people, this is impossible to fix.
  • Are they taking about 160-180 steps per minute?
  • Does anything stand out that looks blatantly wrong?


Question:  How important is it that I cross train?

Coach Deb:  I’m a big fan of cross training and recommend it to all of my clients. Cross training can include strength training, yoga, or choosing another form of cardio exercise to compliment your running. Cardio cross training allows you to continue to train your cardiovascular system to improve your endurance while allowing your running muscles to rest. Biking, swimming and rowing are all great cardio cross training choices.

Strength training is important and can help prevent injuries while enhancing our running performance. Stronger muscles and joints can perform longer and maintain better form without tiring out as quickly. And amazingly, stronger upper bodies help carry us through those difficult later miles in marathons and ultras.


For answers to other questions you might have missed, check out my Coaching tab for previous Ask Coach Deb installments.


  • Questions:
  • • Have you tried to change your running form? If so, did you see good results?
  • • Do you cross train? If so, what do you do?
  • • What questions would you like to see answered next time?


Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on the blue product link and then make a purchase, I will receive a commission for referring you. You will pay no more or less for the product; however, Amazon will show their gratitude for my referral by paying me.