Saturday, September 5, 2015

All the Miles

I recently discovered I have the same disconnect as the poor runner in this meme regarding my vision of myself as a "high mileage" runner versus what I actually have been doing for the last 5 years. Forcing myself to be honest and actually look at my running log over that time period made me realize I have been anything but a consistently high mileage runner. I've done a bunch of workouts and had some high mileage weeks (and a couple of good races), but there's been nothing consistent about it. Thinking of myself in these terms has led to inconsistency in my running due to my repeated attempt to jump back into my *usual* high mileage regimen while also maintaining a hard workout schedule.

Lesson: don't let where you think you should be get in the way of where you need to be.

I needed to hit the reset button and allow my body to adapt to consistent running again. I think there is probably a window of opportunity that we have when we are forced to take a break from our usual training where we can jump back into training at our typical volume and intensity, but I have a feeling the timeframe is not 5 years. I actually haven't seen much good information on this subject because most is focused on the very short term, like taking a few months down versus years. Nonetheless, I decided I needed to view this more as starting from scratch and listen to how my body responded to training. That's always the best bet, but it is super tough when you have visions of yourself as Lolo Jones in your head.

I mentioned in my last post that I have been indulging in podcasts during my runs and have now listened to probably 30-40. The information becomes a bit garbled when listening to that many in a short time period in that I am not really able to attribute what piece of sage advice came from which coach or athlete. Aside from realizing that there are a million different ways to train to improve performance, I have been able to pick out the common themes from the many episodes I've listened to. Here are a few:

1. Volume is king. Nearly every single coach and athlete has said this is the bread and butter for improvement. Some say you can get away with aerobic XTing some of the workouts, but for the most part you just have to run more. People are afraid of adding volume because they think they will get injured. I am starting to change my view of this. I believe people get injured from increased volume because they are also maintaining or increasing their intensity along with it. Some can do this but most cannot. This is why I am trying a stepwise approach to increasing my volume. I am trying to let my body adapt to the higher volume first, whilst maintaining some basic speed and speed endurance workouts before I ramp up my intensity. A couple of interesting things have happened over the past month or more of doing this. My average resting heart rate has decreased by 5-10 bpm. That is huge!!! Plus, I'm able to run faster at a lower HR. That is adaptation in action!      

Lesson: Everything builds from that strong aerobic base.

2. It takes at least 2 years of consistent training at a high level to start to see the benefits of that training. I know this to be true from my own experience but it was interesting to listen to athletes and coaches discuss this. Only a couple actually recognized this as a "rule", McMillan being the most vocal. His rule that you have to train the athlete, so they can train to be able to train to achieve their goals is an outgrowth of this. This was one of the epic moments of podcast listening for me. It's when I realized I really just need to build a base of training so I could train to achieve my goals. Brilliant.

Lesson: Patience is a virtue. Give yourself a 2 year goal and be viciously consistent about training.

3. Strength training is secondary to running, but it can provide another adaptation to help you become a better runner. So many of the athletes/coaches I listened to, most notably Steve Spence, attributed their best performances to times when they had both running and strength training programs dialed. I believe there is a huge amount of trial and error associated with getting this right. I am still working it out myself and always believe it is good to try new things as long as you're willing to fail and let the thing go if it's not working. Oh, and a HUGE mind blower for me from one of the Magness podcasts was the realization that one of the primary benefits of lifting heavy is the increase in a little hormone called testosterone. Yep, lifting heavy is a natural way to increase your T!

Lesson: Play around with strength training and find what works for you. Bonus lesson: planks are not the best core work for runners!

Finally, to stick with my long term goals, I decided to opt out of the Chicago Marathon in favor of extending my base training. I am currently planning to run CIM as a goal marathon race. You may have also noticed that I added my strava log to the sidebar in my blog so you can keep up with what I am doing. I just started logging my workouts in Strava this week, so you won't find a lot of history, but I will keep that updated daily. So check back on my blog to see how my running is going or give me a follow on Strava!            

Here are links to the podcasts I listen to. Check them out in iTunes:

Runners Connect. Be sure to listen to the interviews with Greg Lehman (mind blown), Deena Kastor, Steve Spence, Steve Magness and Stan Beecham.

Runner Academy. Be sure to listen to the interviews with Ian Sharman, Deena Kastor, Alex Hutchinson, Tim Noakes, and Matt Fitzgerald on 80/20 running.

The Science of Running. This one is fairly new and is more of a conversation between 2 run coach geeks, but it has some nuggets in there including episode 3 on strength training and 4 on training/life balance.