Tale Of Two Marathoners

I still remember the first time I saw Lukas Verzbicas run (for those that are not familiar, Lukas is one of the greatest high school runners of all-time holding the national 2-mile record of 8:29 and 5k record of 14:18).  He was a gazelle competing against others that seemed to be standing still.  Most outsiders that see a teenager run that fast would be likely to assume he is putting in 80, 90 or even 100 miles weeks; not Lukas.  Part of the year Lukas was a triathlete then when he focused on just running; swim and bike were used for recovery and his run volume was never over 50.  Despite being one of the greatest high school runners ever, at the time there were still many “experts” that criticized his process and that he would run faster “if he did X” since his training was very against the grain.  When you have an athlete running healthy and improving; why would you want to change that?  After graduation Lukas decided to attend the University of Oregon and try to change him is exactly what happened.  Lukas’ run volume went up and his bike/swim volume went down along with his performances.  Shortly thereafter the fastest high school runner ever in US history left school and became a full time triathlete.


Late spring 2016 I met two athletes that would join our team and forever change not only the group as a whole but me as a coach.  Every year we send a few athletes to the North Shore Half Marathon; purpose is to run hard over a hilly course in a race environment.  After I wished our athletes well I jogged over to the first mile marker not only to cheer them on but also be sure they weren’t out too fast.  After our men passed I saw our top female coming through but something was strange; she had another female with her.  For a little background, Kris (our top female) was just coming off running 2nd to Olympian Alexi Pappas at the Shamrock Shuffle and ran 33:03 for 10k so it’s safe to say I was a little shocked to see an athlete I did not know running with her.  They passed by the first mile right around 5:30.  A fan next to me said “that other lady is in for a long day” but that wasn’t my thought at all; I was impressed with her aggressiveness and tenacity.  Chirine ended up fading the back half of the race but to me that didn’t matter; her competitiveness was what stood out to me that day.  After the race we talked and a few months later Chirine was on board with the goal of a fast marathon in the fall of 2017; we had a year.


That fall I wanted to see what she could handle, so started out at 70 miles, then 80, then 90 and soon 100.  Each time I upped her volume she’d chew it up and spit it out.  I had something here.  That fall she did two 120 mile weeks while staying perfectly healthy.  As good as I thought she could be, there was a small problem; Chirine wanted to go at everything like a bull in a china shop.  Each day she was fixated on her GPS instead of listening to her body; every day was 7:02, 6:55, etc….way too fast for her easy days.  Easy fix; I took her GPS and replaced it with a Timex.  I thought I was going to be punched.  She asked when her GPS would return to my reply “when you learn to run easy”.  Also going into the winter we had another problem; Chirine had less than 0 leg speed.  She was aerobically strong enough to run forever but couldn’t break 5:30 in the mile if it was downhill and short.


About 6 months before I met Chirine, a lady by the name of Alyssa Schneider just finished up her career at University of Illinois and gave me a call.  Alyssa had a solid career in college but no offers from “big” programs.  I told her on the phone I couldn’t offer her anything besides shoes, gear and the promise I would do everything in my power to make her the best she could be; Alyssa was in.  She still had to finish up her spring student teaching but in that time I got to know her a bit better not only as a runner but a person.  She had an amazing passion for the sport and a lot of potential; one thing we had to get around was her injuries.  Alyssa has a tib varum (a slight bowing out of the bone), something that would never change and resulted in some foot injuries.  So instead of trying to force high volume on her; we made some adjustments to strengthen her body but also placed emphasis on recovery after hard workouts.  While most of her teammates would be out jogging on the roads to recover; Alyssa spent her time in her basement on the bike or at the local pool swimming laps.  Using this methodology of hard days hard and easy days on bike or pool; Schneider had a great first year running 1:16 in the half marathon and took 7th overall in the USATF Shamrock Shuffle.


Going into marathon training for Chicago; we had 10 athletes who were about to begin their own journey; Chirine was an expected one, Alyssa was not.  Alyssa and I met for coffee in June.  I asked her if the marathon was something she’d be interested in; her response was something I’ll always remember; “The marathon really excites me but also scares me.”  I smiled and advised her to give it a try.  Despite her injury history, Schneider stayed incredibly healthy since joining our team so I believed she was ready for the jump.  Combine her new found routine which kept her healthy and running great; Alyssa is one of the toughest athletes I have ever been around.  I was very optimistic.


One of the most important jobs a coach has is figuring out the individual mix for each athlete while training them specifically for their race.  Even though Chirine and Alyssa are polar opposites as athletes; I believed they could finish up around each other over 26 miles.  My goal for both of their training was to mold it to their strengths.  Week after week Chirine piled up the miles (topping out at 154) and Schneider trained like a long course triathlete with countless hours biking, swimming and run focus was on specific marathon work (like 40 400s, 3hr over-distance runs and 2 hour progression runs).  Things were going well.  About a month out Chirine and Alyssa had huge road 10k PRs cutting around 45 seconds off each from 10k’s they both ran in July.


Ten days out from Chicago, I discussed race plans with both:  no watch, be smart early, run like hell late, and enjoy every step (very scientific I know).  The weekend before I got “some advice” from a local coach saying how I’m running Chirine into the ground with her volume, I smiled and said “We’ll see”.  Later that day I spend some time at U of Illinois (where Alyssa and I both went to school).  A few alums were asking me how her training was going and I let them know what she was doing; one informed me that no athlete running that little could run a good marathon let alone break 3 hours; I smiled and said “We’ll see”.  So many runners love the cookie cutter programs where each athlete fits neatly into a box.


I am still young enough where I can make it to several spots on the Chicago course.  One of my favorite things about this sport is seeing athletes pour in their mind, body and soul into a dream that others deem as impossible then watch them perform.  Early on the runners looked good, half way through the same and at 20 I was very vocal in letting both ladies know that it’s time to go.  I sprinted down to Michigan to see them with a mile to go.  Chirine powered down the road with the strength of more miles than I cared to count, few minutes later I saw Alyssa gliding down the road with a smile on her face.  I was pumped.  Chirine crossed the line in 2:39; not only a huge PR but also broke the Lebanese National record.  Three minutes later Alyssa Schneider, in her first ever marathon, ran 2:42 qualifying her for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in one of the fastest debuts ever by an Illinois woman.


Two athletes finished within 1% of each other with one running more volume than any other first year athlete I’ve coached; the other trained like she was doing an Ironman.  It’s very different on paper while adhering to the same philosophy; CONSISTENCY AND PERCEIVED EFFORT; day in day out, week in week out, month in month out; repeat.    Watching two athletes push themselves further than they thought they ever could is a beautiful thing.  I could not be more proud of the work that these two runners put in to be the best versions of themselves on October 8th.  Not only are Chirine and Alyssa are two of the hardest working athletes I have ever had but also two of the best people I have ever met.


NEVER be afraid of being different; be afraid of being like everyone else.


-Michael Lucchesi



When I started out running in high school then later in college; I would watch the Rocky movies the week of a race.  There was even a few times in high school where I’d watch the original on Monday, II on Tuesday and so on while “doing” homework (this may explain my stellar GPA).  Even though the original will always be my favorite; nothing beats the training scene in Rocky IV when Drago is in the fancy gym with a team of doctors and trainers tracking everything while Rocky is out in the cold chopping wood and climbing mountains (in his leather coat and boots mind you).  Me being me and analyzing everything; wondered why this scene was so enjoyable to me and have always came up with the same answer:  the simplicity of how Rocky trained in Russia.  He surrounded himself with a few people close to him and used his environment to train his mind, body and soul.  Obviously this is a movie and a tad exaggerated but sometimes it’s needed to exaggerate an experience to make a point.


Narrowing the conversation to endurance sports; when I start working with a new athlete 9 times out of 10 adjustments are made in regards to their over-reliance on technology.  Some “get it” after a week; others find their GPS watch in my possession for a given time period.  I don’t do it to show who’s boss nor because I hate technology; one of my jobs is to kick out the crutch and obsession with technology is often a huge one.  Those who always rely on outside sources to inform them how they feel in a given workout or race have a hard time reading their bodies; when the pain and blood are flowing late in a competition your heart rate, pace and power are irrelevant; I have yet to see a trophy given to the athlete that had the lowest heart rate when finishing a race, just the one who ran the fastest.


After you finish a workout; what are the two questions you are asked:  How far did you run and how fast did you go?  Never fails.  A few weeks ago at practice another runner came up to me and asked what zones the athletes ran during the intervals (my response was: hard).  Some of our most satisfying workouts have NOTHING to do with hitting numbers but have everything to do with how hard we pushed ourselves or how much we enjoyed the experience.  I never want an athlete to walk away from a workout dwelling on the numbers; as long as the athlete hit the effort for the workout then it was a step forward.  That simple.  Some sessions are to be kept in check and others you have to let em go.  We have a lady here who is right out of school and training for her first marathon; about half way through an interval workout she was feeling it more than she should; so told her to let the others ladies go and run her effort.  She not only finished the longest workout of her life but after the last one; asked if she could do one more for the 800 she missed when nature called.  You think she walked away with a positive experience?  Of course.  Now if she would have been told to stick to a certain pace regardless of how she felt; she would have blown up and left the track with not only a negative experience but a good chance of getting hurt.  On the other side of the coin, some days you just feel great without explanation and staying at a certain heart rate or pace zone would limit a potential great workout.  We had one of these here this spring around Shamrock (an USATF 8k race of 35,000 runners).  As with all of our harder sessions; the team knows after warm up watches off however this session was a tad different.  It started out with a mile all out but the key was this:  they were given no splits, just the descriptor to run like mad.  I looked down at my watch after the first lap, shook my head and smiled; they were getting after it.  Our first two ladies crossed the line in 4:40 followed by a few others coming in a tad later but everyone was in under 5 minutes.  They couldn’t believe it; for most of them it was a PR.  4:40 is fast for any female; especially marathoners who just worked a full day.  They had no taper, no splits, no pacers to block the wind; just each other on a basic high school track.  It’s amazing what the mind can do when it’s put in the right situation without a limiter.


One of my favorite questions I get often is if we don’t use stereotypical metrics; how do I measure improvement?  Simple; when athletes PR.  Every year there are ‘breakthroughs’ in training, nutrition and recovery products. However, we should not forget the basics; the things that ACTUALLY makes us faster. It is training and common sense; so often over shadowed by the promises of improvements without putting in more time or effort.  I am lucky enough to coach some incredible people; one of them I have had for over 2 years on our team and last weekend had a great in-depth talk with her.  One of the questions we asked of each other was if money and time were not a factor; would I change anything in regards to her training.  My answer was a simple no and here’s why:  she has PR’d in the mile, 5k, 8k, 10 mile and half-marathon all while juggling work, grad school and (as we all do) life.  Why would I wanna change that?  If I hired a fancy strength coach to help her with kettle bell swings or found some new age nutrition expert; sure she may improve 1% in that area but at what cost?  More than likely the 99% would suffer so then I ask:  Did I make her better or worse?   If simple is keeping an athlete happy, healthy and they are improving in races; don’t change anything based off something you read on-line or what your favorite pro runner does.


One of the best examples of nailing the basics is looking at 2 of the top British runners of all time and the current marathon record of 2:07.  As of now Mo Farah is the most dominant distance track athlete of our time and it is very well known all the technology he and his coach employee in training from Alter-G treadmill to a special strength coach and having his recovery days dialed in to an exact pace of 6 minutes a mile.  While no one can argue his success on the track owning PRs of 12:53 and 26:46, his much hyped marathon debut was a different story finishing in 2:08.  On the other side of the coin is Steve Jones who was a very accomplished 5k/10k runner himself sporting PRs of 13:18 and 27:32 respectively.  Steve had no nutritionist nor a recovery lounge to use; he just used his environment and work ethic to be his best.  Steve got up to (what he estimated as) around 100 miles a week and did all his work based off time and effort.  His hard days were workouts like “5 minutes intervals hard” and “2hrs 20min steady”.  Before his first completed marathon; Jones took off his watch and decided to race his competitors and listen to his body.  Off Mars bars and Coke; Steve finished his first marathon in 2:07:13 breaking Alberto Salazar’s World Record.  Despite all the advances in science, 33 years later, 2:07 still stands at the British national record.


I could care less what anyone’s max heart rate is or lactate threshold in our group; as long as they are all happy, healthy and improving.  Physical tests do not show how tough someone is or what kind of heart they have when the chips are down in the middle of a tough one.  This sport is aerobic in nature and statistical data tends to be more a novelty than the indicator of performance.  I always want athletes to concentrate on the stuff that has made them improve; taking the easy days easy and when the hard days come; run them to the best of their ability on the day.  Do this day in day out, lose yourself in the process and I’ll take my chances with that philosophy then anything money can buy.  Never doubt the heart and will of a motivated athlete; trust me on that.


-Michael Lucchesi

Experiment of One

I think we can all look back at our time in school and remember a few teachers that really made a mark on our lives; one of mine was Professor Watts at University of Illinois.  I had her for several English classes but my first with her was the one that I’ll always remember.  Prof Watts paired us up for our mid-term project and I was with a guy named Tim.  We were working on a paper focusing on T.S. Elliot’s famous poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”  We met several times and turned in the paper.  Next class Prof Watts asked me to stay after to talk.  She told me to re-do the paper but this time by myself.  I was beyond mad; mostly because Tim got off with an B and I had to re-do it for a grade.  After spending the weekend feeling sorry for myself; I began to work on the paper at 9pm Sunday night to turn in Monday morning.  I stayed up for hours pouring my heart into it and looking back; it was the best paper I ever wrote.  Monday morning I turned it in with bags under my eyes to Prof Watts; she just smiled.

Two years later, a month before I graduated I stopped into her office to say bye.  We had a good conversation.  Before I left, I asked her why she made me re-do that paper but not Tim.  “Michael, one thing you will learn if you have not already is that no two students are the same; so you have to find different ways to help them learn.  I’ve been at this a long time and can spot different writing styles pretty easy; Tim gave his all to that paper, you did not.  While being a full time student, Tim was also working 30 hours a week as a janitor and living at home with his sick mother.  He was giving his all to every aspect of his life.  You had more to give.  You can not push every student the same.”

One of the best things I love about coaching is finding what works for an individual.  I do not nor will ever believe in a one size fits all program; does not work.  A coach needs to build a specific training program for the athlete and the event they want to run.  I have never been interested in having a conventional training; I only care about what works.  Sometimes what will work best for an athlete is not following the norm and reading their mind and body to find the winning formula.  I had a lady join our team in 2015; prior to being on our squad she ran the same workout each and every day; got on the treadmill and every mile got a tad faster.  This told me much about her.  As the weeks went by I noticed Lauren was coming to workouts with a smile on her face and leaving workouts knowing she could have done one more.  So after every two week cycle; I upped her volume.  I normally do not like having first year athletes increase too much too soon but Lauren Kerjes wasn’t a normal first year athlete.  Towards the end of the summer she finished her Sunday long run at 96 miles happy and healthy.  Sure as death and taxes; Lauren sent me her weekly summery at 8pm stating that she ran 100 that week.  As mad as I was that she went out that afternoon so she could get to 100; it told me how much she is loving the process of long aerobic miles.  She got to 100 miles/week quicker than any female I have ever coached and was rewarded by running a 2:44 debut marathon and qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Until recently when my wife got me a tablet; I used to do all my workouts from memory and e-mailed them out on my phone.  Now that I am more organized; I have everyone separated in two groups; not based on times or gender but on their strengths.  Within those groups I’ll have everyone cover different bases every two weeks but the way they do it is different.  One of my guys has a very stressful job and is in grad school; running needs to be fun for him (plus he hates cross training) so his mix is plenty of miles at a moderate to medium effort, hill strides for strength and intervals 1-2 times a month depending on his “A” race; doing this he has stayed happy, healthy and cut several minutes off his half marathon PR to now a blazing 1:04.  In the other group I have a lady who joined our crew last year and has had some foot issues in the past.  To train her I use more triathlon methodology than running to keep her healthy.  I originally wanted her to have her fall “A” race be Indy but she had a work conflict so ran Naperville instead.  It’s a smaller race and was a little worried she’d be solo. During the race someone told me that Alyssa Mae stopped by the high school (around mile 9); I was worried something happened.  She crossed the line at 1:16; a new PR.  I asked Alyssa why she stopped, very calmly answered “had to go to the bathroom.”

We take our easy days easy and our hard days hard.  Very boring but it works. Consistency, patience and effort; nothing more.  I have had a few over the years not get the results they want right away, their eyes wander, and they go off.  Everybody’s looking for the secret; that one thing “everyone is doing”.  People are always saying there’s an easier way. Let me tell you—there’s no easier way.  My athletes train hard; but it’s not without thought.  There’s no magic session. It’s about how you put it together. We just try to do everything right so no stone is left unturned and success is inevitable . Everybody’s wondering about the workouts. That’s the easy stuff. Any idiot can buy a book with 50 workouts. It’s the way you put them within the training cycle.  It kills me when I see coaches just give this blanket generic advice out or use one elite runner to show everyone what they should be doing; most likely some runners will try it with no success or injury.  Why?  Everyone is different and you have to mold the training advice to the specific event they are training and the person who is training for it.  I saw a webcast the other day where a coach was saying how ALL runners NEED to lift 2-3 days a week and in some instances; lift before a hard workout.  The majority of the audience is recreational, training for highly aerobic events and with about 4-5 hours (maybe) a week to train; so you want them to spend 60-90 min a week/30% of their time doing anaerobic activity for an aerobic event?  If the audience is a bunch of 800m runners; no problem….but a bunch of 5k-Marathon runners?

The plans I write for runners are built around the individual; if it’s unorthodox who cares; we roll with it.  What matters on race day is that the training was tailored to the runner and that you attacked it with consistency, will and self-belief.

I have always been an admirer of Emil Zatopek and Ron Clarke; two of the greatest distance runners of all-time.  Zatopek won gold in the ’52 Olympics in the 5k, 10k and Marathon; something that most likely will never be done again.  Clarke was the first man ever to break 13 minutes for 3 miles and also held the world record in the 5k and 10k.  The two best runners of their time and you could not pick two different training styles.  Zatopek was famous for saying “I already know how to run slow; I want to run fast” so he was on the track 5 days a week doing intervals.  Clarke never used a stopwatch and very rarely did track work; everyday started easy and by the end of his runs no one could keep up.  They trained very differently but used unbelievable consistency to the program they believed to work for them.

We don’t work on what is scientifically right or wrong; we work on to find out what works for you. That’s what I’m after.  Professor Watts taught me well.


Michael Lucchesi 

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I have always believed that there is a starting line in life. Many of us are born at that line and are brought up in that middle class, have average intelligence and along with it, average athletic ability. You have some born below that line and you have some that are ahead in life from the start whether it would be superb athletic genes or above average intelligence. After a certain point; if an individual wants to be successful; it is up to them to do the work and find a way. Some may have to work harder than others, but no good things in this world come without being earned. Successful people find a way.

We can’t control how much talent we are born with, only can control our attitudes towards what we are trying to achieve. People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them. People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It’s that simple. People who fall short believe that their lives are shaped by circumstances; by things that happen to them; by exterior forces.

Psychology over physiology; always. This is not learned out of a book but through hard work; champs get it done on race day no matter what; not relevant how they feel or what the weather is…CONSISTENCY AND PERCEIVED EFFORT; day in day out, week in week out, month in month out, year in year out and repeat. If the athletes I help leave with anything; I always want them to know that no matter what; THEY have the power to write their story.

I remember back in 2015 I brought Kevin Havel and Kristen Heckert to the North Shore Half Marathon. I woke up that morning and it was 42 out w/ 20-25mph winds and clouds. Got to the race and didn’t discuss the weather w/ either of them; gave them their plans and that was that. This was nothing new to either of them; both trained day in day out with no excuses and nothing held back. I saw Havel at the 5 mile mark running 5 min pace on 1:03 half marathoner Dan Kremske’s shoulder with a smile on his face; a few minutes later I saw Kris wizz by with extreme focus. Both stuck to the plan and it worked out; Havel tossed down a 4:42 mile at the 10 and that was that; ended up running 1:05; new PR and course record. Kris came through 10 min later with similar results; a shinny new PR of 1:15 and yup, a course record. Havel is a very talented runner but the ideal situation doesn’t suit him; he works 50 hours a week, plus travels and on top of that is in graduate school; still finds a way to get in his 100+ miles per week and compete at a very high level. Kris has a background in many things but distance running is not one of them; Kris in high school never broke 6 in the mile but has transformed herself into one of the best distance runners in the U.S with 140 mile weeks and a mental toughness I have never seen in any other athlete.

Later on that summer; Liz Bailey was tearing it up doing workouts I never thought she could do. Liz was in the best shape of her life. Four weeks out of her ‘A’ race, Liz got incredibly sick with a stomach bug and high fever. It was the weekend of her tune up half marathon. I honestly did not want her to race but I thought better of it to tell Liz what to do; so being the competitor she is; Liz raced. I remember standing on the road with 800m to go and sure enough, I see Liz hauling down the road at 6 minute pace. I just shook my head and smiled. A few minutes later Liz had a two minute PR running 1:20. You can succeed in a race two ways; by bringing more fitness to the race or just bringing more of what you have; on this day it took 100% of Liz’s mind (when she only had about 50% of her body) to run 1:20. Liz had a good career at Augustana College then took a few years off serious training and racing. In the last two years while working a very stressful job as a social worker in Chicago (and commuting 2.5-3hrs from burbs 5 days a week) Liz has PR’d in every event from the mile to the marathon.

We can’t control where we came from, what the day gives us or how much talent we were born with; but we can control are actions and attitude. I don’t care if it takes 6 months or 6 years, you can reach your goals in this sport when, to quote the great Chrissie Wellington, “The will out lifts the skill”. People ask me all the time what I give athletes for training and I just smile; physical training is just a small part of a much bigger puzzle. The mind controls the body; not the other way around; I drill this into the athletes I train all the time. PSYCHOLOGY over PHYSIOLOGY; always; all great things are just beyond your comfort zone.

Do not concern yourself with things you can not control and replace those thoughts with self-belief. Know that hard work can get you where you want to go. No matter your situation; you have two arms, two legs and a heartbeat like everyone else. Do everything right so no stone is left unturned and success is not left to chance; it becomes inevitable.

Michael Lucchesi

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When Running Defeats Mental Illness

On an ongoing effort to bring you a wide range of content to help you reach your full potential, this week we are excited to have top 100 running blogger, Maria Abbe of Running Myself Together, giving us a guest blog post. Many of us may have or are struggling with mental illness of some kind. Running can do a lot of healing. We thank Maria for her willingness to share her story and we hope it helps whoever is reading this. Please enjoy the article below.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already onto the fact that running is pretty good for you – mentally and physically. And, surely, I’m not sharing anything new when I say running releases endorphins, which make you happier, give you energy, and produce what’s been called a “runner’s high.”

I never considered myself a runner. I grew up in theatre, memorizing lines, going to dance classes, and singing solos on stage. Runner? Never.

And that’s the beauty of running. You can stumble into it no matter what walk of life you’re on. I sure did.

When I first started college, I made friends with a few girls on the cross-country team and upon meeting them, I shuttered at the thought of running for extended periods of time, every single day, including the weekends. But as the semester continued, I found myself lacing up my sneakers and hitting the trails with them. I can’t say I was hooked, but I knew it was good for me, so I continued to partake here and there.

But that’s not really where my running story begins. It actually begins the summer of my senior year in college. Up until that point, I had suffered from an eating disorder, extremely low self-esteem, body image issues, anxiety, and depression. I’d been in and out of therapy for about 8 years. I had been on antidepressants, birth control, tried holistic, and natural approaches, but all to no avail. And during the aforementioned summer, I was coping. I was alive. I smiled and enjoyed life. But underneath, I was still suffering. A lot.

That pivotal summer was especially hard, because, well, Facebook. Battling low self-esteem and watching my friends post pictures of themselves in bikinis, laughing and enjoying their summers, and appearing to be carefree, I began playing the comparison game, which caused me a lot of stress and anxiety.

One evening it all came to a head. I was scrolling through my feed, and as I continued to scroll, I began to feel more and more anxious. There was one post in particular that triggered something inside and I started having a panic attack. One far worse than anything I’d experienced before. Unable to breathe and on the verge of passing out, I was rushed to the hospital.

I regained strength and myself that night in the hospital bed, but from that moment forward my life changed forever.

I found a therapist who began working with me and I was truly making progress. Then, one day, I laced up my sneakers and went for a run. For the first time in my life, my racing thoughts matched my moving body. It was a difficult run. It wasn’t fun, by any means, but I felt a release I’d never felt before.

From there, running became a tool I used to propel myself through recovery. Something was bugging me? I went for a run. Had a long day? Went for a run. Happy? Run. Sad? Run. Finally, finally I was able to start detangling the constant stream of haywire thoughts. I’d never had a release like that before. It felt like I was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. One that I’d given up hope on seeing.

Some other great things happened too. I began to love my body. I stopped counting (or caring about) calories. I ate to nourish my working muscles. And I enjoyed being fit and toned, instead of dreaming about being skinnier.

I slept better at night. And I set goals to run races and hit PRs. I was finding peace.

I don’t like to say running cured me. It didn’t. There were a lot of factors that came into play and I believe that someone who goes through something like what I’ve gone through, well, you’re really always in recovery. You’re always fighting off stressors and working to improve yourself. Running now helps me cope with life’s ups and downs.

I’m sharing my story with you, because I was never a runner. You may not be a runner either. Or maybe you want to be, but you’re scared to take the first step. Do it. Just give it a shot. Life can be difficult and defeating at times, and running may help you find peace whilst struggling with inner (or external) turmoil. You don’t have to be good at it. You don’t even have to like it. But there is something to be said about a body in motion.

So I encourage you to get out there and get moving. Even if it’s only a few steps. Because you never know what the world of running has in store for you.


Maria Abbe


Running Myself Together



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How To Recover Properly When You’re Tight On Time

Fair warning this blog post is short. This is post is meant to give you immediate action steps you can take to ensure proper recovery after a workout when you don’t have a lot of time.

Let’s say you just did the following workout:

15 minute easy jogging warm-up, running drills, 10 x 100 meter hill sprints (fast), 15 minutes easy jogging cool down.

Great workout! So, how do you make sure you get properly recovered from a workout like this when you have a time crunch? It all starts in the preparation.

Whether you’re up early to get your workout in before work or before school here is a checklist of things you can do to make sure you recover properly when don’t have a ton of time after your workout.

Prep the night before:

  1. Put out the workout clothes you are going to wear the next morning. This little adjustment does a lot. From piece of mind, to more sleep and advanced readiness to perform your best in the workout you’re about to tackle.
  2. Put your water bottle.
  3. Grab your foam roller (if you don’t have one, get one. I recommend Trigger Point)
  4. Grab your post workout snack – a protein shake (ex.UCAN) or nutritional bar (ex. Quest Bar, UCAN bar) are great options that will give you protein and quality nutrients that will be absorbed immediately by your body and help it recover quicker.
  5. Put everything together in one spot so you grab it all in the morning or come back to right away when you get done with your run (ex. water bottle, food, foam roller)

After the workout:

  1. Roll out (foam roller, The Stick, self-massage)…5 minutes is better than 3 minutes and 3 minutes is better than zero minutes.
  2. Eat breakfast – This meal is going to help set the tone for the day and will be a factor in how your run/workout goes. More nutrients and a well-rounded meal the better.

The Rest of the day:

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The body needs water especially after a hard workout to help it recover faster and feel better.
  2. Eat balanced meals. Protein (ex. chicken, fish), good fats (avocado, whole milk, nuts) and good carbs (veggies) and keep away from processed foods (soda, energy drinks, boxed meals) as much as possible.
  3. Go to bed a little earlier and aim to get 8 hours of sleep that night.


If all else fails go to bed 15 minutes earlier and get up 15 minutes earlier and give yourself more time to do all these things above. They are critical to speeding up recovery, reducing potential for injury and getting better over the long haul.

Things aren’t always going to go perfectly, but the more you can execute the things on this list you will get better consistently over time.

Do you have questions? Can we help you? We would love to hear from you Contact Us.


Eric Wallor


I started running when I was 14 but before that never had exposure to a “team atmosphere”. I was lucky enough to crack into our top 14 my first year which allowed me to make a trip to the state meet and be a part of a team that won the state title (York High School in Elmhurst, IL) that year. The following Monday our coach had us come into his office to discuss what to do over the winter to get ready for track. As we were about to leave the coach asked me to hang around….he asked me “is this the first ‘team’ you have been on”? I said yes…then he handed me a few articles about a team that was located in Boston called the Greater Boston Track Club. To quote Matt Fitzgerald; “they were just a bunch of rag tag running bums who lived to put in miles”. They produced several amazing runners such as Amby Burfoot (68 Boston champ), Alberto Salazar (multi-time marathon winner and former world record holder), Greg Meyer (last American born Boston winner) and, in my opinion, greatest American runner ever, Bill Rodgers (4 time NYC champ, 4 time Boston champ). They did some incredible things; esp at their peak in the mid 70’s to mid 80’s. One feat that really stands out to me is at the 1979 Boston Marathon. Bill Rodgers won but they also put 3 more in the top 10!!! These were nothing special talent wise….one worked full time at Rodgers’ running store, one lived at home with his parents and was a social worker, the other was a mailman. With all the money in the world to buy state of the art training equipment;  Nike gets excited to have one runner in the top ten of a major…..these “running bums” in Boston had 4. How? They trained their asses off together, pushed each other, had fun and enjoyed the process…..simple but it works.

Looking back at 2016, Chicago running has had a historic year and one of the biggest reasons why is the emergence of the group atmosphere all over Chicagoland.   You have teams like Nike/Fleet Feet, Fast Track, Under Armour/DW Running, New Balance Chicago and Jenny Spangler Racing that provide a fun, close knit atmosphere for athletes to train, race and have fun while doing it.  It is not easy to have a family, job, etc….and still try to train your butt off and go after PR’s; but these groups along w/ others have done a great job helping runners do things they normally could not do on their own.  I also think for this past year and moving forward it will help set up Chicago running w/ good/healthy competition so everyone can go out and be the best they can be while racing other teams in the area.

As I stated earlier, this past year was historic in Chicago running and unfortunately, there is no system in place to recognize some of these amazing achievements so wanted to take a moment to say congratulations to a few local athletes that have done some amazing things to stack up w/ not only the best in the state but some of the best in the U.S.

Brandon Mull (Nike/Fleet Feet): ran 1:08 in Half Marathon, ran 2:18 in Marathon to qualify for US Olympic Trials where he finished 61st

Nick Holmes (Naperville Runing Company): was 9th overall at USATF Club Champs/Shamrock, ran a PR of 1:04 in the Half Marathon to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials where he finished 94th

Lauren Kersjes (New Balance Chicago): ran a 116 Half Marathon, a debut 2:44 marathon to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials

Laura Batterink (Saucony):  ran a 33:30 10k in Naperville and 16:13 5k on the roads in Yorkville

Kristina Aubert (New Balance Chicago): ran a 1:14 Half Marathon in her 2nd ever effort at the distance qualifying for the US Olympic Marathon Trials

Kristen Heckert (New Balance Chicago)  finished 27th at US Olympic Marathon Trials, 2nd at USATF Club Champs/Shamrock, ran 15:59 for 5k,ran 33:03 10k ranking her 14th in US and qualifying her                             for US Olympic Track Trials and was 15th overall/6th American at Chicago Marathon running 2:39

Amber White:  ran a PR of 2:42 to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials where Amber finished 133rd overall

Kevin Havel (New Balance Chicago):  ran a PR of 1:04 in the Half Marathon to qualify for US Olympic Trials where he finished 100th, was 18th overall in USATF Club Champs/Shamrock

Tera Moody (Nike): qualified for her 3rd US Olympic Marathon Trials, 4th overall in USATF Club Champs/Shamrock

Alyssa Schneider (New Balance Chicago):  ran a debut 1:17 Half Marathon, ran a PR of 1:16 in the Half Marathon at Naperville

Chirine Njeim (Nike): ran a PR of 2:44 in the Marathon, a PR of 1:17 in the Half Marathon and ran in the Olympic Marathon in Rio finishing 109th

Kate DeProsperis (Saucony/Jenny Spangler Racing):  coming back to training/racing after having a child, ran an incredible PR of 2:42 at California International Marathon

Again, big congrats to these 12 athletes; some very fast times and they were part of the most amount of athletes Illinois has EVER sent to the US Olympic Trials.  My hope is that these runners, along with many others, can continue to improve and help make Chicago running the best it can be.


Michael Lucchesi


Leading into the New York City marathon; Runner’s World put out an interesting article about US runners going faster at NYC in the 70’s and 80’s vs now.  In sports, everyone is entitled to their opinion but numbers do not lie Americans did run faster 30-40 years ago and if you have not yet red the Runner’s World piece, they have listed their reasons.  Below are mine based off my observations in the world of US running and the athletes I coach.


Steve Jobs once said “simple is much harder for people to understand then complex.”  I could not agree more.  Back in the 70’s and early 80’s, runners got out and just ran.  Sometimes in running clothes, sometimes in just sweats but at the end of the day the volume was done and onto the next day.  Running 100+ miles a week was not considered “high volume”, that was just what you did.  As for workouts it was very simple; run a lot of easy miles and once a week you got together w/ your group of running friends for a simple track workout. Bill Rodgers’ was famous for running hundreds of miles with any friend he could find in Boston then once a week joining the Greater Boston Track Club for a track workout with Coach Bill Squires.

Many modern runners now can’t run one day without their GPS watch telling them how fast to go and several do workouts that need an astrophysicist to explain.  When runners now rely on technology to tell them how they feel vs being in touch w/ their bodies, they never really know their limits, never know when to back off and very rarely go to “that place” that they’ll need to on race day.  Technology has a spot in training, but not as much as most think.  This also goes for all these fancy workouts ranging from specific HR zones, lactate threshold based on ACTUAL lactate, H.I.T intervals and several others.  I actually have a friend who hired a local coach to help her.  After a few months she quit, I asked why and her response was, “I couldn’t even understand the workouts.”   So many runners salivate over finding out new/edgy workout ideas that will bring them to “the next level”…I’ll save them time; there isn’t one.  Does anyone think Alberto knew how fast he was running a tempo in back in 1981?  Of course not….he listened to his body and when it said stop, he kept pushing.  Oh; and he did these workouts while running 20+ miles a day.

It’s a 26 mile race, you have to put in the miles if you wanna be great.  No secrets, no fancy workouts or a new piece of tech will get you there.  There’s a reason why guys 30-40 years ago in simple shoes, cotton t’s and timex watches ran faster than modern day runners who have so many more advantages but neglect the most important piece of marathon training: foot pounds of work.



In 1979 the Greater Boston Track Club put 4 athletes in the top 10 of the Boston Marathon; while training through the tough New England winter.  Whether it was -10 out or 30 and a foot of snow guess what?  They were out putting in the miles and the results speak for themselves.  During this time you had these guys training in Boston, Alberto Salazar splitting time in Boston, out to Eugene and back then Dick Beardsley doing some training in Minnesota, some in Georgia and some in Boston.  None of these locations would fall under the ideal of “ideal training locations” but they all produced results that can not be disputed.

For most athletes that race in college and want to pursue their dreams what do they do?  They seek out big name coaches in running hotbeds like Boulder, Flagstaff and Portland.  These, among others, are very beautiful places to run but athletes often give up friends, family and familiar surrounds to look for that perfect coach or perfect place to train.  Also, many young runners don’t research programs and instead just look at a few “success” stories vs looking at the whole program.  Many of these big name programs are over-flowing with talent so of course they will have a few rise to greatness but how about the other 50-70%?  They fall between the cracks with many others waiting to take their place.  If a teacher was only reaching 50% of his/her students how long do you think that teacher would have a job?  Not very long.  Coaches should be held to the same standard.  I am not going to call out any specific program for obvious reasons but you’d be surprised how many of these pro programs have a less than 50% improvement rate.  As a fan of US distance running, makes me sick to see so many talented runners search out for perfection to later find out there is no perfect training place.

All runners are products of their environments.  There are no bad facilities, there is no bad weather just bad attitudes.  Athletes have to believe that they will succeed no matter where and no matter what.  I’m sure Beardsley didn’t enjoy 20 milers during sub-zero Minnesota winters but guess what….I’d bet the farm it helped make him tough as nails.  I’ll take a mentally tough athlete that will train in anything vs a freak talent who looks for “ideal” instead of realizing all he needed is two arms, two legs and a will to work.



I’m going to list 3 athletes PR’s and guess who has the fastest marathon at NYC:

  1. A) Mile 3:58, Half 61
  2. B) Mile 4:04, Half 61
  3. C) Mile 4:16, Half 64

If you were to guess C then yup, you are right.  The marathon is not about speed but about strength.  It’s not how fast you can go it’s how long you can hold race pace.  Sounds so simple but I see time and time again athletes doing workouts 30-45 sec faster than marathon pace but only 4-6 miles of work.  Why?  Many runners, especially men, have egos and like to say “I ran X workout at Y pace”.  It’s a 26 mile race so your interval work should be geared towards that distance.  If an athlete was training for a 10k would they only do 2 miles of interval work?  Of course not; so why is the marathon any different?  Six to eight miles of work isn’t gonna get it done when you are 20 miles in and need to call on something that just isn’t there.

It even gets better with long runs and weekly volume.  in the 10 weeks before Bill Rodgers won his first of 4 NYC marathons he AVERAGED close to 150 miles per week with more 20+ mile days then I care to count.  Over 95% of his runs were aerobic.  Many pros now do several workouts a week but never get much above 20 miles for their long run.  Racing 26 is a very long way; no better way to practice then, well, running.  You can have all the speed in the world but if you don’t have the glue to hold it together it just doesn’t matter.

Oh and by the way; runner A is Tyler Pennel who just ran 2:15 at NYC, runner B is Matt Llano who just ran 2:20 and runner C is Bill Rodgers who won it 4 times and has 4 marathons at NYC at 2:10-2:12.  How does a 4:16 miler run faster than athletes who have such a higher ceiling?  Miles upon miles of aerobic work with a splash of smart interval training.  You don’t get medals for completing fancy workouts; just who runs the fastest ON the day.



I love this sport and I really believe we have the talent in the US to compete with the East Africans and do it clean; I really really do.  This will only happen when we do a better job of developing the talent we have; there are no shortcuts or science to this; many US runners proved that 30+ years ago.

A few weeks before the Chicago marathon and several before NYC; a friend of mine sent me a video of a pro marathoner getting ready for NYC doing 30 400s (7.5 miles worth of work) in beautiful Flagstaff in matching clothes with his pro coach timing.  Several people commented on FloTrack about how amazing that workout was…I responded to my friend and said how one of my athletes worked her 8-10hr day then did the same workout plus another 20 in a less than scenic suburb of Chicago in the dark with her teammates (12.5 miles worth of work).  Fast forward to their fall “A” races; this pro was the 12th American and ran 8 min slower than his PR at NYC; this school teacher was the 6th American at Chicago PR’ing by 3 minutes.  There are no shortcuts and there is no substitute for mental toughness and specific work for the marathon.


-Michael Lucchesi

Get more training tips from Full Potential Running here – http://www.fullpotentialrunning.com/blog/

Interested in getting personal coaching from us? Learn more here – http://www.fullpotentialrunning.com/personal-online-coaching/



I have been around this sport for 20+ years and if my experience has taught me anything; it’s that the off-season is one of the most difficult times to be a serious endurance athlete and a coach. Endurance athletes are creatures of habit; many can’t wait to get back to work and get in their “routine”. They will count down the days, hours and minutes until they can do so.

Time off is crucial and something I always want everyone I work with to do. For example, I told my wife (who I also coach) to take 3 weeks off after the Chicago Marathon. After I finished my sentence I got “the look”…this happens more than I would like. After about 10 days I could tell she was starting to get antsy but still had minor aches. This past Sunday (3 weeks removed) we took our dogs for a 30 min easy run. About half way through the run Kristen goes to me “I’m glad I took the time, my body needed it…..But I have the itch back so let’s talk about what’s next.”

With most things in running; there is no “one” answer to how much time to take off. I think a good rule of thumb is wait until you have the desire to get back at it but wait AT LEAST one week. Balance is key; take some time to do things you normally don’t do, see a friend you haven’t in a long time, sleep in and just be you. Sport is a part of you; not the entire you. Sitting around on your days off dreaming and yearning about your future goals all the time is not healthy and will not set you up for success down the road. Just as your body needs to recover from the stress of training, so does your mind. Make no mistake, athletes who are successful become so by being fanatical about improving their weaknesses. This takes incredible mental strength and that starts from day 1 after time off.

Whether you are self-coached or have someone; it’s always important to identify post-season what went well but also what needs work. With my group here, I usually have two types of athletes going into the off-season:

1. The majority are athletes who have had great training/racing years but need to be held back from running themselves into the ground

2. Some have weakness either in training or racing and are not yet mentally strong enough to make that improvement jump or need serious work on a physical weakness

In that first group, more times than not I have to “convince” them to take some down time off. I often get push back about “how much they need to work on” or “next year is already coming up”. I nod and smile. If you go at it 52 weeks a year; you will break…Just a matter of time.

In the second group is where the real beauty of coaching happens. Training someone that either A. doesn’t have a huge background in the sport or B. is on a roll; is easy. Taking someone who is trying to figure out why things are not going well; now that is what the off-season is all about. Finding a weakness and helping someone train it out is one of the best parts of my job. Those who accept where they are and what they have to do are the ones who develop mental toughness, break through and start seeing their former selves drift off in the distance.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about next year. It’s her off-season and she asked me for some advice…this is what I said, “Some people search and search for the answers they want to hear, and some look in the mirror and dig in.” There is nothing easy about this sport but always remember that everyone was at one time in that 2nd group. It was the changes they made in the off-season that let those athletes be the best versions of themselves. At the end of the day; isn’t that what we all want?

-Michael Lucchesi


Get more training tips from Full Potential Running here – http://www.fullpotentialrunning.com/blog/

Interested in getting personal coaching from us? Learn more here – http://www.fullpotentialrunning.com/personal-online-coaching/


Is It Really Tendinitis?

Tendinitis is the most misdiagnosed condition of the human body.

What Is Tendinitis?

Tendinitis is an INFLAMMATORY condition of a tendon.  Rest, ice and NSAIDS (an anti-inflammatory medicine) are prescribed for treatment. Cortisone injections are also used. Tendinitis usually gets WORSE with activity. Most people suffering from true tendinitis recover within a few weeks.

What Is Tendinosis?

Tendinosis or tendinopathy is most likely a term you haven’t heard before.  Tendinosis is a DEGENERATIVE condition of the tendon which produces similar symptoms to tendinitis.  Tendinosis is more common than its counterpart tendinitis!  Symptoms will usually go AWAY with activity in early stages. 97% off all tendon tears are a result of mistreated and misdiagnosed tendinosis. Tendinosis can take 3-6 months to heal depending on the severity.

I wish I could say that this is a new discovery, but we have known about tendinosis from Dr. Nirschi since the 1940’s!

There are 7 stages to tendinosis/tendinopathy (Pain is localized to the tendon area.  You can point to the exact spot).

1. Mild pain after exercise resolves within 24 hours

2. Pain after exercise, exceeds 48 hours, resolves after warm-up

3. Pain with exercise that does not alter activity

4. Pain with exercise that does alter activity

5. Pain caused by heavy activities

6. Intermittent pain at rest that does not disturb sleep and pain caused by light activities of daily living

7. Constant pain during rest and pain that disturbs sleep

The most common areas of tendinosis in runners is the Achilles, bottom of the foot, hamstring (underneath the butt) and knee.  And you can guess these get diagnosed as fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, tight hamstrings or “runners” knee.

Tendinosis of Achilles | Feels squishy when touching |

(Tendinosis of Achilles | Feels squishy when touching |)

Most of the research shows that almost ALL tendinitis cases are actually degenerative – meaning it’s tendinosis! Unfortunately, this also means that the drugs, ice, rest, and cortisone injections are actually making it worse.

What can you do?

1. Decrease load or completely stop the activity that loads the area of tendinosis.

2. Get a complete an accurate diagnosis from a qualified provider that knows how to remove adhesion and other scar tissue from the tendon. (http://integrativediagnosis.org)

3. Add eccentric exercises after the majority of adhesion and scar tissue is removed and range of motion is close to full range.

(All the 3 steps must occur in order. You can’t skip steps or it


Dr. Nottoli specializes in helping athletes live pain-free, move better and perform at their best with accurate diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue sports injuries.  He is co-owner of Vitality Chiropractic Center in Aurora, IL.