The Best of Ask an Expert

The Horizon Fitness experts have answered a lot of great questions over the years, ranging from how to clean smelly workout clothes to incorporating more strength into fitness routines. They’ve helped new moms wanting to return to fitness after giving birth, to advanced runners looking to improve their half marathon time.

Do you have a fitness-related question for Coach Jenny Hadfield, Joli Guenther or Ken Grall? Leave a message in the comments or visit the Horizon Fitness Facebook page and they will answer it in an upcoming edition of Ask an Expert.

Here are a few of our most popular questions–and answers!

What is the best way to start running? I’ve tried and failed so many times and find it painful! (Read: How to Start Running)

As a new mom, there are days I can barely get a shower, let alone eat right and exercise. Do you have any tricks to help me lose the baby weight, while still caring for my newborn? (Read: Fitness for New Moms)

At the beginning of every year I hit the ground running, only to struggle with my workouts a few weeks later. Do you have any tips on staying motivated through the winter? (Read: Staying Motivated)

Help! I recently rewarded myself with some new workout gear for sticking to my training plan and they’re already getting stinky! Do you have any advice on the best way to wash workout clothes to keep them smelling fresh? (Read: Best Way to Wash Workout Clothes)



I’ve been hearing a lot about the benefits of planking lately, but it intimidates me. Can you share some tips on how to ease my way into the exercise and different variations to get started? (Read: Planking Basics)

I’m looking for lower-impact ways to get my training in. Does riding my stationary bike for one hour at a medium level have the same cardio benefits as jogging for 4 miles at 12-minute miles? (Read: Running vs. Cycling)

I know I should incorporate more strength training into my exercise routine. Is it better to do it before or after my cardio activity? (Read: Best Time to Strength Train)

I’m a relatively new runner (I only run about 10 miles per week). How often should I be changing out my running shoes? (Read: How Often to Replace Running Shoes)

I’m going to be traveling a lot with the family this summer. What are some healthy foods and snacks I can pack during our family road trips? (Read: Healthy Road Trip Snacks)

Read more Ask an Expert articles.

Meet Coach Jenny Hadfield

Take a moment to meet one of our Horizon Fitness expert bloggers, Coach Jenny Hadfield!

Coach Jenny is a published author (her books include Marathoning for Mortals, Running for Mortals, and Training for Mortals), a coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology, a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and is a certified coach and personal trainer. She is a columnist for, and has written for Women’s Running Magazine, Cooking Light, HEALTH, and Women’s Health. She was also recently recognized as one of Greatist’s 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.

An avid runner, Coach Jenny has competed in hundreds of running and adventure races all over the world, including the Boston Marathon, Eco-Challenge in Borneo, New Zealand, and Fiji, and the Inca Trail and Antarctica Marathons. Her unique coaching style draws from her struggles to get started in running to crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Read more on her website.

We recently caught up with her (in-between her many running adventures) to ask a few questions:

How long have you been doing what you do? 

CJ: My career in running and fitness has been evolving for over 22 years.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to become healthier?

CJ: Surround yourself with a community of healthy people. Whether online, in a group at your local running store or gym or one-on-one with a friend, healthy living is contagious. You’ll learn their tips, receive support, establish camaraderie and have a built in source for accountability.

How would you describe your coaching/training style?

CJ: One word, flow. Everyone is unique, and what I most enjoy is helping people learn how to run their best lives. My philosophy is all about making your workouts and healthy habits flow with your life. 

Check out Coach Jenny’s most popular articles:

How to Start Running

Treadmill Workouts to Keep Workout Fresh

What to Do the Night Before a 5K Race

New to Running

Seven Benefits of Fitness Trackers

Easy Workouts While Traveling


Learning to Run Faster

Learning to run faster isn’t as hard as you may believe.

In fact, in many cases, all it takes it a little tweaking to your routine, and some sweat equity. It’s common to get into the habit of running at a go-to pace, or a pace that can be both too fast, and too slow.  When we run at the same pace all the time (our go-to), they tend to be at too hard an effort to be considered easy, and too easy to be considered hard enough to improve speed.

The secret is in gradually blending an easy, moderate and hard running workout into your routine.

Let’s take my friend Sara, for instance. She runs three miles, three times per week at a 10:30 pace, at a moderate effort level.  She alternates running with yoga every other day to allow for recovery (a good idea). But where she comes up short in her quest to running faster is in the lack of variety. Here’s what we did to change that and it led to her shedding a whopping three minutes off her 5K time.

Run One – One Minute Intervals:

Her first run of the week was changed to an interval workout, where she warmed up, then ran 6-8 one-minute intervals at a hard, Red Zone Effort (see the chart for a full explanation of zones). After every hard minute, she walked one minute, then jogged easy for one minute to recover. After the intervals, she walked three minutes to cool down. It’s important to note that I had her pace herself by her body rather than her pace as it allowed her to push harder than she thought she could and learn when she was recovered.

Run Two – An easy, but slightly longer run:

For her second run (which was two days after her first interval run) I had her slow down and run at a truly easy effort, and one where she could talk in full sentences. I call this the Yellow Zone because it is a happy place, and an effort where you can run for long periods of time. She ran four miles at an easier effort to build her endurance to run longer and boost her fat burning enzymes.

Run Three – A tempo run at a moderate effort. 

For her third run, I had her run longer intervals at what is known as Tempo Effort, or the Orange Zone. This is an effort that is harder than the Yellow Zone, but not so hard that you can’t hold it for longer stretches of time. At this effort, you can hear your breath, you can talk in one or two-word responses and it’s just outside your comfort zone. This is also the effort at which you begin to shift the threshold at which you go from burning more fat to using muscle glycogen for energy. This is important, because it allows you to run faster at easier efforts. After warming up for 3 minutes walking, she ran 5 minutes at an easy Yellow Zone effort, then ran four five-minute intervals at Tempo Effort with two minutes of easy walking in between to recover. She finished with a 3-minute walk to cool down.

At first, I had her running the one minute intervals once per week and two 3-mile easy runs. After three weeks, her body adapted and we added the Tempo Run. After three more weeks, we added another mile to her easy run for a total of four miles

When learning to run faster, it’s important to push outside your comfort zone and incorporate workouts that allow you train in a variety of zones. The secret is in doing this gradually to allow your body time to adapt.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield



Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Ask an Expert: How to Start Running

Question: What is the best way to start running? I’ve tried and failed so many times and find it painful!  -Jessie

Jessie, I feel your pain. Running seemed nearly impossible to me until I learned one little secret. I’d go out and try to run as far as I could, as hard as I could, and end up quitting before I reached the end of my block. My error was in thinking that I could go out and just run right from the start. Running is a high intensity activity, and because of this, it’s important to weave it into your life gradually.

Here is a simple strategy to learn to run, and have fun along the way.

  • Set your target time to 30 minutes and hold it there until you are running 20 minutes continuously.
  • Start with walking 5 minutes, easy at first and then at a brisk walking pace. This will help warm you up for the run ahead.
  • Then repeat for a total of 20 minutes: run until you can hear your breath and walk until you catch your breath. If you are like me, you might start out with 15-20 seconds of running at first and need a full 2-3 minutes to recover and catch your breath.
  • After the run-walk intervals, walk it out for 5 minutes to cool down.
  • Run this workout every other day and no more than three times per week (ie. M-Wed-Sat). This will allow your body time to adapt and get stronger.


If you’re active and want to add more workouts to the mix, include strength, yoga, or low impact cardio activities (elliptical, cycling, rowing) on the days in between. Keep the intensity of these workouts to an easy to moderate effort level to assure you’re not doing too much high intensity exercise and allow for better recovery.

There you have it: the secret formula for learning to love running! It’s all about starting easy, sprinkling running in, and letting your body be your guide.

Happy Running.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Ask an Expert: Missing Days on Training Schedule

Question: I’m training for a half marathon this season and due to weather and a cold, I’ve fallen behind in my training and have missed two weeks of training. How do I catch up on missed days on my training schedule for my race?  Thanks. -Simone

It can be quite nerve-wracking to be missing days on your training schedule for your half marathon, but it’s wise to take a breath, and focus on a plan B. Following a structured training plan is a great way to prepare for a running race, but if you fall off of it for more than a week, it can become a threatening distraction. The problem being, once you get sick or miss some workouts, you are no longer following the gradual progression of the training plan. These plans, if they are well designed, build your running mileage and intensity slowly over a period of time–typically 12-14 weeks for a half marathon.

There is great risk if you jump back into your plan where you left off and try to catch up.  When that happens, injuries are sure to follow. Every plan peaks around 2-3 weeks before the race, and then tapers off to recover for optimal performance. Instead of trying to catch up to your training plan and peak at a certain long run mileage, it’s better to create that plan B, which starts from where you are and continues to build to a new peaking week.

For example: you ran eight miles for your longest run and then missed a few weeks of training and now you’ve got six training weeks to go. Your first week back focus on getting running back into your life with three short 30 minute runs during the week and done at an easy effort level. For your fourth run at the end of the first week back, run 45 minutes at an easy effort level. This will help you get back into running with less stress to your body and set you up for a few harder training weeks ahead.



For week two, build your mid-week runs to 40 minutes and your long run to 7 miles.
For week three, run 40-45 minutes for your mid-week runs and a 9-mile long run.
For the fourth week, run 40-45 minutes for your mid-week runs and a 10-mile long run.
For the fifth week, now two weeks out from your race, run 40 minutes for your mid-week runs, and a 6-mile long run.
For race week, run 30 minutes twice early in the week (Monday and Wednesday), and a short 20 minute run to keep your legs fresh one or two days before the race.

You can adapt this same idea to any race length or goal you are looking to achieve. The key is to avoid following what your head is telling you to do in running more miles to catch up, and instead follow a solid and safe backup plan that will get you safely to the finish line. Good luck in your half marathon!

Happy Running.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Treadmill Workouts to Keep Your Fitness Fresh

One of the greatest things about working out on a treadmill is the variety of ways to keep your program fresh and motivating. If you normally step on and hit “go”, try these three treadmill workouts to spice up your routine.

HIIT (Go shorter, but harder) Instead of running or walking the same workout every time, try this high intensity interval treadmill workout to boost your metabolism (and burn fat) for hours after your workout ends.

    • Warm up walking for 3 minutes
    • Run easy or walk briskly for 5 minutes
    • Repeat the following 6-8 times:
      • Run or walk at a hard effort for 1 minute. (Hard effort should be a sprint, or walking fast at an incline)
      • Walk or jog at an easy effort to recover and catch your breath. (This may be 45 seconds or 90 seconds. Make sure to start the next interval after you’ve caught your breath)
    • Walk for 3 minutes at an easy effort to cool down

Run-Strong (Combine strength exercises with running or walking) There’s nothing like a workout where you multi-task to save time, build muscle and boost your cardiovascular fitness. Try this combo workout for the trifecta effect:

  • Warm up walking for 3 minutes
  • Run easy or walk briskly for 5 minutes
  • Repeat the following 8 times:
    • Run or walk at a moderate effort (meaning not easy and not hard) for 3 minutes
    • Perform one strength exercise (lunges, squats, plank, push up) for 1 minute with the goal to fatigue the muscles by the end. If the exercise is easy, progress the intensity by making it more challenging (squats with weights, slowing it down, modified push ups to full push ups)
  • Walk for 3 minutes at an easy effort to cool down

Climb Every Mountain (Include more inline) There’s nothing that will strengthen your running or walking form more than weaving in hill climbs into your routine. The key is to make it fun rather than torture. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to adapt to the inclines.  After all, even mountaineers don’t start with Everest.

    • Warm up walking for 3 minutes
    • Run easy or walk briskly for 5 minutes
    • Repeat the following 3-5 times:
      • Run or walk at an easy incline percentage (1-2%) for 1 minute
      • Return to flat (0% incline) for 1 minute to recover
      • Run or walk at a moderate incline percentage (3-4%) for 1 minute
      • Return to flat (0% incline) for 1 minute to recover
      • Run or walk at a hard incline percentage (5-6%) for 1 minute
      • Return to flat (0% incline) for 1 minute to recover
    • Walk for 3 minutes at an easy effort to cool down




The key to staying motivated and improving fitness is to mix up your routine every 4-5 weeks. It keeps your body guessing, adapting and most of all, inspired to keep moving forward. Looking for more treadmill workouts? Browse the Coaching section on the Horizon Community.

Happy Trails.

Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Ask an Expert: Music While Running

Question: I like listening to music while running.  Will this put me at a disadvantage during a race if they do not allow headphones?  -Stacey

You’re not alone, Stacey. There are a host of runners that love to listen to music while running to their favorite mix, so much so that there are even running music apps for doing just that. On the “pro-music” side, listening to music while running has been shown in some research to enhance performance for some runners by making it feel easier, which helps you feel like you can run faster, farther and leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s personal, as you can create a mix of music that invigorates and keeps you motivated during the run. And it is a mood-enhancer, which can be used as a secret weapon to get you out the door on those low motivation days.

That said, I’m ad advocate of tuning into your body when you run, as it allows you to run in the optimal zone on the given day. When we tune into music while running, we tend to tune out from our body, which can lead to running too hard much of the time. This is especially true when you listen to your “power songs.”  You know, the songs that make you feel good and push hard. Another negative, is that is distracts you from your surroundings, and if you’re running outside alone, this can put you in a higher risk environment. Whether it be cars, buses, bikes or people, when you’re not aware of your surroundings, it puts you at risk.




This is also why some race directors have banned headphones in races. Initially, they ruled them out thinking the elite runners would use them to communicate with their coaches to cheat. And, there was a significant backlash from the running community when they were banned in some races, causing many of them to remove the ban. Regardless of whether a race may or may not allow the use of headphones, it’s important to abide by the rules of the race out of respect for the organization.

The good news is you have options. I’d recommend training with and without your headphones to better simulate the conditions. Use your long runs as a dress rehearsal and instead of tuning into your music while running, tune into your body and listen to the intensity along the way.

A great way to keep your mind active during the race is to break the distance up into smaller bits and pieces so you can digest them more easily. For instance, break the race distance into one mile increments (or one kilometer) and then dedicate every mile to someone special in your life. This is a great substitute for music as it allows you to think of something emotionally stimulating and motivating, but won’t distract you from being able to listen to your body. You may even find that you enjoy running without music along the way.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Ask an Expert: Running Pace

Question: The whole idea of “running pace” is foreign to me–I’m a new runner! However, I read a lot about it in magazines and hear about it at local races from my friends. Can you help me better understand what it is so I can apply it to my running when I’m ready? — Michele A.

Finding your running pace isn’t as difficult as it sounds, you just need to be in tune to what your body is telling you–and when. Here are a few suggestions you can try when you are ready to find your running pace.

When I first started to try to run, I was met with failure at every attempt. I’d strap on my shoes, take off down my block and within seconds be out of breath and pulling off to the side to stop. I had an image of what a runner should look like, and more mistakenly, I thought I had to run at a certain pace to be a real runner. It took me a few years to master running, and the secret was in letting pace be the outcome of all my runs. Instead of heading out and trying to maintain a certain running pace, I began to run to the tune of my body. At first this meant running slower and mixing in walking intervals. Once I could run continuously for thirty minutes, I began to mix up my running workouts; some days running a little longer, some days a little faster. This helped build running endurance and speed over time.

I’ve been coaching “new” and seasoned runners for over twenty years and the number one mistake many of us make is to try to run by pace and hold it. Sometimes this works out well, but many times it leads to slower times, aches and pains and injuries.




Let’s say you go out for a longer run for 70 minutes. (Don’t be scared by that number, with a little training you can get there!) The trick with developing running endurance is you want to run at a conversational effort level to boost fat burning enzymes and time on your feet. You know you’re in this easy effort zone if you can talk in full sentences while running. If you can only get out a few words at a time, you’re out of this zone and working harder.

If you head out for this run with a specific pace in mind if can lead you to running both too slowly and too quickly. That’s because the body doesn’t know pace it only knows effort. If you run this workout on a hot, humid day and run by your body, it will be significantly slower than running the same workout in perfect weather conditions. Other factors like sleep, nutrition, stress and the like can also affect your pacing performance. On the other hand, let’s say the planets are in alignment and the weather is beautiful and cool, you slept well, ate well and are having a stellar running performance day. If you head out and run at a specific pace in this case it may be too slow for where you are fitness wise and this holds you back from improvement.

The goal is to run with purpose, with a training zone in mind (easy, moderate or hard) and to the tune of what the day brings. Because when you do, you’ll find your pace is the outcome of your performance and will improve over time.

You can easily train in the optimal zone by first learning what they are, and then learning how to pace yourself to train within the right zone for the purpose of the workout.  I like to keep things simple, so I use three core zones when I coach runners, Yellow, Orange and Red:

  • The Yellow Zone is for easy effort runs and those longer endurance runs.
  • The Orange Zone is geared to workouts like hilly courses or tempo runs where the aim is to boost your red line threshold so you can run faster at easy effort levels.
  • The Red Zone is exactly the way it sounds–it’s that hard effort where you can’t talk and the goal is to push hard and fast to build stamina, form and fitness.

When you’re new to running, you might spend more time in the Orange Zone with your running intervals because running is a challenging, high impact activity. Once you build some running fitness and your body adapts to the training, you’ll also develop more running gears like a bicycle–where you can learn to run in all three of these zones.

Like riding a bike, as you become more fit and skilled, you will learn how to run to the tune of your body’s effort.  Whether it be easy, moderate or hard, your pace will become a statistic you can track to see your progress along the way!

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Sofa to 5K Challenge Winner

Photo credit: Henrik Olson Photography

A huge high five goes out to all of our Sofa to 5K Challenge participants this year — especially to Lisa, the grand prize winner of a Horizon Fitness product! Keep on scrolling to read her inspiring story (that turned out to be a little more extreme than a 5k), or visit the Horizon Fitness Facebook page to view the online Sofa to 5K Challenge gallery.

Lisa’s story:

This is my second year taking part in the Sofa to 5K Challenge, so this year I took on the personal challenge of “endurance” which included having a mind set of: “if I put my mind to it, I can achieve something a bit on the CRAZY side.” So when I received the invite this year to participate in the Sofa to 5K challenge I thought…this is the perfect motivation to keep me focused and on track to achieve my goal. So what did I do? I signed up for the “Fat Ass Trail Run” (the “Bad Ass” to be exact.)

The Bad Ass is a 6-hour trail run that travels from the bottom of a ski hill, up the front trail of the ski hill to the crest, then travels along the beautiful top of the hill through the woods, down the backside of the hill (treacherous, if I do say so myself), along the side of a power field, into the woods to dodge some fallen trees, a visit to the aid station (that featured amazing volunteers, chocolate candies, pretzels, etc.), back into the woods again to go up a smaller hill, along an old rail bed, back into the woods only to find the biggest hill I have ever gone up in my life. Needless to say, I had to walk up and even stop to adjust my heart rate. This hill (more like a mountain after a 6K) was the backside of the ski hill.

After sidestepping down the front of the ski hill, it was time for a quick break to recharge with some super juice and bananas then head out for another loop, then another, and another and so on. I didn’t care that other people were faster than me and passed me (some of them more than once) or that the weather was chilly. On my last loop, I was coming up the hill and I heard the coolest thing: it was a woodpecker pecking away in a tree making a heck of a racket. It was the perfect ending to a day in the woods. It made me forget–almost–the last grueling incline and charged me up. I did it! I challenged myself to do something that very few people chose to do and I accomplished my goal. It took so much dedication, time and training my mind to do what I thought a year ago would be impossible. The mind and body are crazy things.

I was encouraged daily by my fellow Sofa to 5K challengers and by Coach Jenny Hadfield with the weekly challenges for some cross training. I followed the walk/run intervals but for longer periods of time to build up the endurance that I needed to reach my time goals weekly. Sometimes it was difficult to get out of bed and run for 4 hours alone one day, then 2 hours the next, but when I put my mind to it the time eventually started to fly by and the scenery was always worth it. I cannot thank the encouraging Sofa to 5K team enough!!


Visit the Horizon Fitness Facebook page to view the online gallery and read more Sofa to 5K Challenge stories.


Join the Sofa to 5K Challenge


Have you ever wanted to run a 5K race? Well now is your chance! In just 10 short weeks, Coach Jenny will have you up and running — and well on your way to completing your first 5K.

The easy-to-follow, 10-week Sofa-to-5K training program begins Monday, September 15, 2014 and ends with running a community 5K by Sunday, November 30, 2014.

When you sign up, you will receive weekly email updates from Coach Jenny during your training, including workouts and helpful tips to completing your first 5K. We also invite you to join the Horizon Fitness Sofa-to-5K Challenge Facebook group for even more exclusive help from Coach Jenny, including real-time answers to your questions.

Once you complete your race, visit the Sofa to 5K Challenge Facebook page to upload your race photo and story of how the Challenge changed you and you will be entered to win a Horizon Fitness treadmill, elliptical or exercise bike . All participants will also receive a custom Sofa to 5K t-shirt!

First things first: sign up by visiting the Sofa to 5K website. You’ll also find a welcome video by Coach Jenny, a sample training plan and the official contest rules. Also don’t forget to sign up for the challenge group – a great way to find support and motivation during the program. Join us here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]