Coaches Corner Blog

Inspired Marathon
September 2016

by Coach Sam Johnson
Founder, StrengthFarm

“Grueling, painful, taxing, enduring, terrible and even hellacious” are some of the words that have been used by runners after completing their first marathon.

Not Samantha. When asked how her marathon experience went this month, she said “I’m damn proud of myself!” She completed her first marathon in 4 hours and 11 minutes after StrengthFarm Marathon Training for 4 months.

Samantha’s training plan included varied running distances, times, and efforts along with a strict weight training program. Days included tempo running in the mornings while deadlifts, squats, and many other core exercises specific to improving her capacity to run powerfully over distance were in the afternoon. Some days were tougher than others. Rest days were full of stretching and mobility exercises to ensure proper recovery from the vigorous plan.

Two years ago her doctor told her she has spinal arthritis, and that she would never run again. After seeing a physical therapist who specialized in running injuries, she learned otherwise. Shortly after learning her condition was not preventing her from running as long as the correct training and nutrition were adhered to, she was more motivated than ever to run her first marathon. Samantha stayed true to the StrengthFarm plan, while training at a lower mileage rate than others she knew were following “running only” programs. Her finish time was more than 30 minutes faster than them and she said she felt stronger than ever!

Congratulations to Samantha on setting a goal, establishing a plan, and following through to the finish line.


January 2016

by Coach Sam Johnson
Founder, StrengthFarm

We hope that you have had a nice rest, recovery and have had a chance to recharge!

Restarting the training process can be an exciting time! There is always a feeling of enthusiasm to start a new training program or get out on the road with new training partners, especially after a few weeks off. One suggestion is for you all to try incorporating strength training at least twice per week into your marathon routine if you’re not already. The benefits gained from strength training include stronger, denser, injury-resistant muscles and bones, but if done properly will not add too much mass to the runner for there to be a decline in keeping the speed desired.

Strength training benefits the marathon runner in that you will build more capacity in your muscles to maintain paces necessary for optimum performance. You will also gain more structural balance throughout the body. When we train our bodies a certain way for a prolonged period of time, they get acclimated to that and it can cause imbalance. These imbalances can lead to injuries during training or racing. To prevent these injuries, training the muscles through proper full-body strength training will help counteract the imbalances caused by performing the same movements over and over. Become a better marathon runner by becoming a stronger marathon runner.


Understanding Overtraining
August 2015

by Coach Sam Johnson
Founder, StrengthFarm

Overtraining is the process of over stressing the body’s recovery mechanisms, keeping them in a constant catch-up mode with the stimulus being applied. Running is statistically one of the activities that shows higher rates for overtraining than any other mode of fitness.  Overtraining affects the musculoskeletal system and has affects on the state of psychological health.

Physically: The musculoskeletal system responds to overtraining with injuries to include lower limb stress fractures, tendinitis conditions in the lower extremities, and impairs the ability to recover from exercise-induced stress leading to general fatigue of the muscles relative to running.  Over trained athletes also exhibit elevated exercise heart rates and require longer for their heart rate to return to normal levels following training sessions.  One of the most common signs of overtraining is decreased immunity.  Signs for this symptom include fever, head colds, increased allergic reactions, and fatigue related sickness.

Psychologically: The psychological symptoms related to overtraining include sleep disturbances, prolonged excessive weariness, chronic fatigue, losing vigor, self-confidence, apathy, depression and irritability.

A great strategy to prevent overtraining is keeping a written record of training days, times, loads used, and time spent training at certain intensity levels. Keep records of morning heart rate, fluid and dietary intake throughout the training and competitive seasons, and quality of sleep you get each night as well.  Monitoring these metrics will be of use in that seeing significant rises or drops from pre-training phase levels could signify an increased risk of overtraining.  Maintaining a diary of assessing your own emotional outlook is useful as well.  These steps may seem excessive at first but in reality, only periodic review is necessary to assess changes in the areas indicated.

As we embark upon the main training phase leading into the Portland Marathon it is important to remember to keep these things in mind relative to overtraining.  Inducing stress on the body and mind is the only way to make improvements in our capabilities to perform at our highest level possible during the race.

One of the most important things to understand is that recovery is more important than training.  The training is such that we become worn down and tired, but optimal recovery through proper nutrition, rest, and mobility will go a lot further than the correct training protocol alone.  Taking a holistic approach is much healthier and serves more longevity to perform at higher levels in the long run than breaking down and performing at a level that is not ideal.

Regardless of the training protocol you follow, try to take at least a week off from training before the Portland Marathon to ensure proper recovery and health to attain the fastest time possible.  Good Luck and Have Fun. We will see you there!

Core Strength for Runnersafb8c68b-3b1e-4896-8eeb-846c4b82b9b6
July 2015

By Portland Marathon Coach Sam Johnson, Head CrossFit and Sports Performance Coach, Fusion D1 Athletics/CrossFit

Core Strength – The importance of gaining, improving, and maintaining this quality cannot be stressed enough for runners. A great skill exercise is the “Hollow Rock.” This simple exercise can be performed anywhere without the need for equipment or weights. This is not like a sit-up in which spinal flexion is the main-mover. This exercise is all about developing what it takes to maintain spinal rigidity and stability.

Endurance in this movement will translate to improvements in the abilities of the marathon runners’ stature and posture while running. For increased efficiency and effectiveness, perform this exercise at the end of tempo running or lifting weights.

To Perform a Hollow Rock:

– Lie face up with hands together, arms straight, and elbows right outside of ears
– Legs straight with feet together, toes pointed
– Raise Both hands and feet 6” off the ground
– Maintain this position throughout movement
– Rock back and forth moving hands up while feet down and vice-versa

4 week Exercise Protocol:

Week 1 – 25 Hollow Rocks for time
Week 2 – 50 Hollow Rocks for time
Week 3 – 75 Hollow Rocks for time
Week 4 – 100 Hollow Rocks for time

Want to Stay Injury Free? Deadlift.
May 2015

by Coach Sam Johnson
Founder, StrengthFarm

With a well-rounded routine, runners will be less injury prone and more prone for success! The exercise most commonly negated and arguably the most important for injury prevention training will be the topic of discussion today, the deadlift.

The name “healthlift” may be more suitable! The deadlift is a posterior chain exercise, strengthening the backside of the body from top to bottom. The traps, scapular retractors, lats, spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings are just a few portions of the muscular system it enhances. With proper technique this lift is a potent exercise used to increase power and strength output.

Increased power output and generation is a recipe for successful long distance running. Distance runners should become familiar with the ability to pull the earth underneath the body and use gravity as a friend rather than enemy. The deadlift aids in the runner’s ability to do this with more force and stability – I recommend performing this exercise in rep ranges of 1-5 and set ranges of 3-10.

Start with a weight that allows you to do the number of repetitions and build up from there. Once the required amount of repetitions cannot be performed, the workout is done (remember to start light and build up in 10lb increments).

Here is a 4 week Exercise Protocol for Deadlift:

Week 1 – 10 sets to build to a 5 Rep Max Deadlift
Week 2 – 8 sets to build to a 4 Rep Max Deadlift
Week 3 – 6 Sets to build to a 3 Rep Max Deadlift
Week 4 – 4 sets to build to a 2 Rep Max Deadlift

Proper technique is necessary in every movement known to man if efficiency and effectiveness is the desired outcome. The guiding principles of proper technique in the deadlift rest upon orthopedic safety, midline stabilization, and mechanical advantage. The steps to deadlift are as follows:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed forward
  • Bar placed over mid-foot
  • Hands placed outside of knees and closed around bar
  • Shoulders retracted and slightly forward of bar
  • Hips Down & Chest Up
  • Lats and Triceps contracted and pressing against one another
  • Weight through heels
  • Bar stays close to legs as it rises
  • Torso angle remains constant
  • Head straight ahead, Chin Tucked
  • Shoulders and Hips rise at the same time
  • Glutes squeezed at the top of the lift

 December 12, 2014image

by Coach Sam Johnson
Founder, StrengthFarm

The movement of the day is the bodyweight squat, also known as the air squat. This movement can be performed anywhere by anyone with the proper mechanics. Why might this movement be of importance to long distance runners? It can greatly assist runners in developing lower body muscular strength endurance. By working on lower body muscular endurance, your legs will maintain more power output while running, leading to faster splits. Try adding it to your regular routine by performing 3 sets of 25 air squats twice weekly before running (ex. Monday and Friday). If this becomes easy, add 5 reps per set each week thereafter while reducing the rest time. Here is an example of a 6-week program easily added to a runner’s already intense routine:

Week 1 – 3×25 air squats, 2 minutes rest between sets

Week 2 – 3×30 air squats, 1 minute 45 seconds rest between sets

Week 3 – 3×35 air squats, 1 minute 30 seconds rest between sets

Week 4 – 3×40 air squats, 1 minute 15 seconds rest between sets

Week 5 – 3×45 Air Squats, 1 minute rest between sets

Week 6 – 3×50 Air Squats, 45 seconds rest between sets



  • Stance = feet shoulder width, toes pointed out approximately 45 degrees
  • Full extension at hips and knees


  • Weight on heels
  • Lumbar curve maintained
  • Chest up
  • Hips travel back and down
  • Bottom of squat is below parallel (hip crease is

below the top of the kneecap)

  • Knees track parallel to feet
  • Return to full extension at the hips and knees to

complete movement

  • Head position is neutral

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