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Justyn Knight and Ben Flanagan – The Sweetheart & The ‘Stache

Justyn Knight and Ben Flanagan are two of Canada’s brightest young stars. Justyn is a 3-time NCAA champion, a World Championship finalist, and holds multiple Syracuse University records. The University of Michigan’s Ben Flanagan rose to fame after his victory in the NCAA 10,000m final in June. His post-race exclamation of “where’s his mom?” made him an instant sensation.

RELATED: Ben Flanagan has signed with Reebok

In this episode, Justyn and Ben chat about transitioning from the NCAA to the pro ranks with the newly formed Reebok Boston Track Club. The answer your burning questions about training, facial hair, and being proud Canadians.


Here are Justyn and Ben’s answers to the questions we didn’t answer in this episode:

What do you do after finishing a season? Do you take time off or just do easy miles?
Justyn: I usually take about 2-3 weeks off with no running. I may do core during this time.
Ben: After the season I make sure to take some downtime both physically and mentally. This includes some time completely off from running, some time with low-key low-focus runs, before getting back into training, starting with a base build-up.

What is you pace for a normal, mid-week easy run?
Justyn: I like to stay around 6:40/mile pace.
Ben: Depends on the day, I certainly like to gauge my effort in response to how my body feels on the day. I feel like I average around 7:00min/mile on easy days, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Long run day is the only day where the average pace is usually faster than that (but still comfortable).

What types of strength training do you do, and what would you recommend a high school runners?
Justyn: In college I always did a 15 min core routine about 3 times a week. Now that I am pro I hope to incorporate some weight lifting.
Ben: Throughout my career, I have done different types of strength work. Nowadays, I spend little time in the weight room, but do core 2-3 times/week. Most important is
finding what works best for you and makes you feel best.

How do you approach nutrition pre- and post-training?
Justyn: Before training I try to eat a small but nutritious meal like oatmeal and peanut butter. enough to get me through practice. And after practice I just try to eat other nutritious food and load up on protein.
Ben: Pre-training: Light, and usually carb-based. That is usually peanut-butter/banana on toast or avocado and egg on toast, or banana bread with a cup of coffee. And ALWAYS stay hydrated! I also like to add BIOSTEEL electrolytes to my drink beforehand. Post-training: I like to eat as close to the completion of my session as possible, before having a post-training meal shortly later.

How disciplined are you about your daily nutrition throughout the year?
Justyn: I eat healthy because I grew up eating health foods. My mom and dad would cook at home and I do the same. However if I feel like something i eat it to avoid binge eating down the road when the season gets tougher.
Ben: Diet and nutrition are important, but I try to avoid putting unrealistic expectations/ restrictions on myself. I try to cook my own meals as often as possible, but will occasionally eat sweets or fast food as long as it does not interfere with training.

How do you calm your nerves before a race?
Justyn: I listen to my slow song playlist that consists of Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, and some slow Drizzy Drake.
Ben: Music. I love listening to my pump-up playlist before competitions. I also like to set-up a fun environment, engaging in some light-hearted conversations with my coaches and some competitors that I am friends when appropriate.

Any tips for track runners who want to become better at cross-country?
Ben: Build that base. Tempos can be tough but are really helpful.

What is your favourite speed workout?
Justyn: I like doing in and out 800’s.

How fast do you run your 1km repeats?
Ben: Depends on the time of year and the type of workout. If we’re doing a tempo
effort = 3:00 – 3:08 Race specific work = 2:40 – 2:50 depending on volume of the workout.

How do you balance running with other passions? 
Ben: I believe that you can certainly have multiple passions and balance them. I would take some advice from my Reebok teammate from Martin Hehir, who runs professionally, while in medical school, while raising a family!

How do you stay motivated to train and race hard over a long season?
Justyn: This is very tough because I have experienced burnout before but you have to remember why you’re training and what your end goal is. Its very helpful if you get out and do more things than just running to distract you a bit.

What was your 10km time in Grade 10?
Justyn: I don’t remember. I ran it in a all girls race for breast cancer and I didn’t win.

How do you typically approach a race that you’re not favoured to win?
Justyn: You have to always remember that there is someone in that race that has been training the whole year to beat you. Don’t get comfortable but know your strengths and weakness’ and take advantage of them.
Ben: I tell myself that I have nothing to lose, so I might as well put myself in position to give myself a chance to win the thing.

What is the most important part of recovery?
Justyn: stretching and drinking water are hands down the most important for recovery. I will also say running your easy runs easy.
Ben: Sleep! Good quality sleep and making sure you are getting enough. I love napping too.

Do you do yoga?
Justyn: No but I want to.

What is a key workout for gaining 5000m specific speed?
Ben: [2 x 150m @ mile pace, 30 seconds rest 200m @ faster than mile pace] [2-min rest
2x 150m @ mile pace, 30 seconds rest, 300m @ faster than mile pace] [2-min rest 2x 150m @ mile pace, 30 seconds rest]

What was your longest long run in high school?
Justyn: 13km
Ben: I think I went 1-hour and 40-minutes once. It probably checked out to about 14-miles.

How can I go into a race being confident and mentally tough?
Justyn: You just have to trust your training and accept the fact that theres nothing you can do until the race starts so theres no point in thinking about it all day. Just take the time to enjoy the sport for what it is and cherish the fact you get to compete, because it doesn’t last forever.

At what point in the season do you start doing V02 max workouts?
Ben: After I get in a good amount of base-work and approaching the racing season, we’ll start to incorporate more high-intensity work. I don’t think there is any perfect time or that it should be rest. I think it is more about finding what feels right at the time.

Do you find the hands-on-head technique actually helps your performance?
Ben: I loved doing that type of style work in high school. Too be honest, I have not done that sort of technique work in a while, but if you feel like it helps and enjoy doing it, stick with it!