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7 Questions I Get Asked About Training As A Pro Runner

Updated: May 2, 2022

training as a pro runner

Training as a professional runner is the same as running at any other level, challenging, requiring a lot of discipline, and fun!

That last onefunmainly applies to easy workout days. Only partially kidding. 😉

In this post, I'm answering questions (from you guys!) that all in some way relate to training. I answer questions that I and other pro athletes get, and these are some of the most common.

I'd love to know your thoughts, so leave a comment at the end.

training as a pro runner

1) How Huge Of A Role Do You Think Strength Work And Weights Play? And How Much Time Do You Devote To It?

Weights are a huge part of running well.

When I have a great and consistent strength program, I feel so much better during workouts and during races.

Not only can I generate more power, but I feel more durable in longer workouts!

Working on my physical strength has been a huge focus for me—when I started in college I could barely lift anything.

And I think it has made a huge difference in my speed.

For most of the season, I lift twice a week, although sometimes in late summer or the beginning of Fall (when starting to build back up at the start of another track year) there have been three a week on my schedule.

Each lifting session is about an hour.

Strength work doesn't stop in the weight room though!

I have PT exercises that strengthen areas I need to work on that I often do at an entirely different time than my lifting sessions.

This includes things like:

  • band exercises

  • core circuits

  • bodyweight circuits

  • dumbbell circuits

  • med ball throw circuits

  • balance routines

All of these things work on strength in some way. It doesn't just have to be just squatting in the gym.

2) What Would You Tell A Freshman Starting Their College Track Career?

There are a lot of things I could tell a freshman track athlete. But here are two things that come to mind right now!

1. Be Patient

Something that I think would have been helpful to hear is "you're not the only one who thinks they should transfer immediately."

When I first got to Duke, I often felt like I wanted to leave. Not all of that was track-related or anything, but the feeling was definitely there and was both influenced by track and had an influence on track.

And what was hard about that was watching everyone else have so much fun and seem so content with where they were.

However, when I was an upperclassman, I watched younger athletes feel the same things I had felt when I was younger.

That's when I realized that EVERYONE (ok, there are probably some exceptions) struggles in the transition at some point in any number of ways.

When I told younger athletes that I, too, had questioned what I was doing at one point in my past, they were shocked because they've only been around to see me settled in and having the best time.

So I think this is important to share. Had I decided to pack everything up and move back home, I wouldn't have known how much I was going to wind up absolutely loving every second of being on that campus.

Be patient in finding your groove. It might take a bit and that is entirely okay.

Also, be patient with track performance. I was convinced as a freshman that each year I was going to cut A SECOND off of my 400 time.

Yes, a second.

Why did I think such a thing?

Because up to that point I had done just that! (roughly lol)

When I got too caught up in that, it kinda showed in my performance (even though there could have been other factors). I was obsessing over the fact that I wasn't dropping time like crazy, which isn't something I should expect to just happen simply because I'm training.

Flash forward three years later and I was heading to NCAAs in an event I didn't ever think I would ever be able to say I'd run. Be patient because wild things can happen.

Q&A With A Professional Runner | Madeline Kopp

2. Stay Focused, But Have Fun

My best years at Duke were when I allowed myself space to have fun outside of track.

Honestly, I stopped taking myself too seriously.

I was working incredibly hard at track and school, don't get me wrong, but I definitely had times where I was like RIGHT NOW is for (insert something fun).

And RIGHT NOW is for track.

If you don't let your mind chill a bit, you start overthinking, building up stress, and heading down a path towards burn-out.

Not only that, track is fun!

Running is a social sport and honestly, if I hadn't laughed my way through many a-tough training weeks with the awesome friends I had, I wouldn't have been as excited about putting in the work.

It was soo hard to pick just a few things to cover on this topic and these are just the first two that popped into my mind! If you ever need more advice on entering a college sport just ASK an older athlete you know. We've got a lot to say:)

3) How Many Hours Do You Train On A Typical Day?

I train for about 4 hours a day depending on which day of the week it is.

Run practice is usually 1.5-2.5 hours.

Lifts are about an hour.

Some days I have doubles, which never take less than 30 minutes roughly. This is where I would do some sort of cross-training, like biking or a circuit.

Many of my teammates over the years have done doubles as well, which would be another run later in the day. For them, that may be anywhere from 30 min to an hour and a half easily.

With two practices like this, including travel time to a track, trail, or gym...a big portion of the day goes towards track.

I also consider other things "training" like corrective exercises, stretches, and recovery sessions with the foam roller. Some days this can be as little as 10 min or as long as an hour!

4) Do You Log Both Food And Workouts?

I do log workouts.

In full honesty, I haven't always been very good at it and it took a lot of encouragement from my coach to get me going.

But, I do find it helpful for looking back and seeing where I was or how I felt the last time I did a workout. There are so many benefits to tracking your fitness.

If I had a good workout, it's nice to see what type of training day I had the previous day or two.

It's also helpful to look back weeks or even months to a run or track workout to see how much you've improved the next time around. Super encouraging!

I have used many methods for tracking fitness:

When it comes to food, I don't consistently log food.

I have worked on it at times because I do think it would be helpful. I generally eat healthily and stick to the same basic structure, but a huge focus this year for me was getting the exact right nutrients specific to my body and logging food can help keep me accountable.

If you're logging both food and workouts simultaneously, this can be really eye-opening to how certain foods make you feel on workout and race days. Or what helps you recover after a hard day.

professional running

5) Have You Ever Been Injured?

Yes, I have been inured before. For the most part, nothing extreme which I'm grateful for.

During college, I would take time off (never more than a few days) for pain that I had in the back of my knee. It usually happened around the time I was starting to get into longer and tougher workouts and I eventually would even back out.

In 2020 I had a truer recurring "injury," which was hamstring pain that left me afraid to sprint and push it too hard.

Never having experienced a serious injury, I was afraid that it could be something more serious and didn't want to risk it. It was unlike the usual sore muscles I had experienced.

After working with a PT, I found imbalances in my body and my running form that could be contributing to the issue.

This is a huge key to dealing with injury as a runner. Find your imbalances and come up with a routine for them to strengthen them!

In 2021 I developed a post-tib pain that I thought was just my Achilles for a while. It ultimately stopped me from stepping on the starting line for my final race.

6) Do You Get Paid? How Do You Survive Financially?

A difficult subject for many professional track athletes, financing your pro journey can cause a lot of stress.

There are so many different situations in the professional track world

  • sponsorships

  • club teams

  • brand deals

  • working full-time or part-time

  • staying with a college team

And probably more!

For the purpose of this quick Q+A, I'll answer from my own experience.

In my first year as a pro, I was training with my college coach and team, so outside of being a graduate, not much changed for me.

I worked a part-time job to pay the bills. During track season, I was able to win some prize money from races and did some modeling for Under Armour.

But, like many other pro track athletes, a part-timeor full-timejob was necessary.

After that first year, I decided to move to DC and train full-time with District Track Club (Whose uniform I had been wearing already anyways).

Being on a professional team can be huge for support. Depending on the team and their standards, there is often financial support of varying degrees available for athletes.

Another way professional runners can make some money is by working with an athletic brand.

I am so happy to have repped Under Armour on and off the track for 3 years.

Contracts take many shapes and forms: from a base pay, to bonuses for competing at or running well in races, to support in the form of athletic gear.

In conclusion, it can be really hard to feel financially OK as a professional track athlete. Keep this in mind when you see your pro friends grinding it out on the track9 times out of 10, they're doing it solely cause they love it.

7) How Do You Deal With The Mental Aspect Since Going Pro?

The adjustment from college to professional was pretty significant and it took a while to adapt.

Your mindset has to shift in a lot of ways.

For me, the day in and out of college track felt planned. I was recruited to go there, I was competing for the team, and I only had 4 years to do it. It was part of my growing up and my career journey.

On the other hand, going professional felt like a major life choice that was on the brink of being "not a great idea."

I think the reason for that was the difficulties I had finding a job that worked with my training schedule and provided me with enough to live.

Basically, after going pro I was doing the same thing I had always done track-wise, while also having to adjust to aspects of "adulting." I had to:

  • pay rent

  • make all of my own food

  • go to work and do actual work that is used by members of society

And other things that I hadn't had to think of before as a student.

It was especially challenging when I moved to a new city and had to get used to a whole new lifestyle.

All of this is to say that the mental stress from external factors can easily transfer over to the track.

Especially when a lot of the life sacrifices you're making comes from your decision to be an athlete.

This puts a lot of pressure on your performance. (If this sounds similar to college track pressures, you're right! It's comforting to know you've been through it before, it just looks a little different.)

How have I dealt with it?

I'm still learning every day how to deal with the mental challenges of being a professional athlete, but having a great group of teammates, going through the same thing, to talk to about it all has been amazingly helpful.

Someone always has a piece of advice, a helping hand, or some motivation on the track.

Another thing I do is remind myself that I do this because I'm passionate about running and love being a part of the sport.

I like pushing myself to see what I can do. I love connecting with and supporting other athletes. Keeping this bigger picture offsets the daily challenges.

Training As A Professional Runner

Being able to train as a professional runner has been the most unexpected, challenging, and rewarding experience.

While much of it is similar to being a collegiate athlete, a lot did change. If you were curious about the pro track world, I hope that some of these submitted questions gave you some insight!

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Hi, I'm Madeline

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