Monday, March 26, 2012

Mileage Versus Time - being a Smart Runner

Most runners, at least the ones I know have a little OCD mixed in with Type A characteristics.

This is not meant to be a negative – as a triathlete I tell everyone I have ADD, OCD and triple TYPE A – try being me!?!  It is exhausting some days.    

So how am I relating this all to the mileage versus time debate you ask?  Well as endurance runners – yes if you run anything over 5km, in my book, you are now an endurance athlete.  There are levels but yep you have definitely moved past the 20 minute after work run – and if you can do 10 km in 20 min – well I dislike you a little bit. 

Again back to– see the ADD thing I am not kidding – tying this together.  Once our mileage goes up and we start doing half marathons, full marathons, ultras and such we start to become more obsessive about our mileage.  Especially those who are new to long distance running.  There is this fear that if you do not get the exact precise mileage down that the schedule says great catastrophe’s will occur!  What are they you ask?  Well to name a few:
v      How will you be able to up your mileage the next week?
v      How will you finish in your goal time?
v     How will you EVEN BE ABLE TO FINISH THE RACE AT ALL?!?!?!

There is a real fear that if you do not get the exact, precise mileage done these things will happen.  I have heard so often – “we were supposed to do …. km but it was only …. – that was 2 km short” and the intense concern and fear in their voice.  I feel empathy for them because I have felt that fear – it is real.  However after doing this stuff for 12 years now I am a little more laid back about it.  I am not saying I don’t have a small heart palpitation but I recover quickly and shake it off.

So mileage versus time – yep it is important to maintain consistent mileage when training for longer distances and there does have to be increases in a controlled and reasonable way otherwise you will get injured, burnt out and/or not be ready for race day.  I mean you are going to have to do a run over 20/25km in training if you want to do a full marathon and still walk the next day.  You are going to have to run a few hours in a row.  You can not top out all your training runs at 10km and hope to be mobile the next day. What I would challenge the folks that are focused on the actual mileage is to listen to your body and be flexible with the mileage. 

There is strong evidence that if you can go out for a 3 – 3.5 hour run a few times in your training you should be okay.  For those speedy peeps – you know who you are – you will be able to knock out your 32km run easily in that time and possibly the full 42.2km.  I would like to point out though, that there are a few of us runners out there that may take a smidge longer,  that we like  to savor our run – if you are in the 7 min/km and over group then you need to consider time out there.  3 – 3.5 hours is more of a 24 – 29 km run.  Not a great differential but that extra 3km or so is a minimum of 21 more minutes and quite possibly longer if we are training in the right pace/zone.  That means for us that as distance increases so does the time out on the road and that can lead to overuse injuries and over training.  Hence where the quality of the run should start to take precedent over the quantity. 

Running 32km because the schedule says 32km is a good idea but only if it makes sense for you – if you are not feeling well or are slightly injured or have something to do then the world will not end if you cut it short – I promise.   You are not a failure and you are not letting yourself down.  You are training smart.  Maybe the next time you go out for your 10km run you feel great and add on a few km it all works out.

My message here is to stay flexible in your training – don’t be so hard or stringent on yourself – we do this for pleasure, at least I do.   By being a little flexible then you have the ability to adapt to what the day hands you and you are not weighed down by expectations or a pedometer.

I did not always believe this – I had to be converted.  I mean the schedule is the schedule is the schedule for a reason! (That is the OCD kicking in) My personal conversion happened when I trained for Ironman – not once did I ever run over 3 hours – not once.  My coach did not put down mileage for me to run she put down time’s.  She said run for 3 hours – the first 20 min run with your heart rate here then go to the is heart rate and maintain for this time, then change to this and such.  I am not a fast runner – especially not now since the accident – so in 3 hours I was probably getting in 25 – 27 km – maybe…  For Speed workouts she did the same thing 15 min warm up in this zone then 10 min in this zone, 1 min recovery, repeat 8 times then 15 min cool down run. 

Riding - I never rode 180 km, again it was based on time – she said 3 hour ride – I rode 3 hours following the parameters she said to. Some days I got farther some days not so much.  It was dependent on the route(s) I chose, weather, how I was feeling and such. 

I remember feeling incredible anxiety about this method and process but I thought I hired her because she has had success training others this way and I talked with those people and whenever I started to doubt the process I would remember what they told me and I would do it that way. 

Now I find that training this way allows me to have the freedom to listen to my body and be okay when a run is a little short or I physically pull out – which I have had to do on my last 2 long runs. I find I have less injuries and more proactive when something starts to ache or hurt and that allows me to return faster and usually keep training.   Before I would push now I don’t.

I could have ground it out this past Sunday and got the mileage but from experience and my new understanding of quality vs quantity I know that I will be okay because by pulling out it means I can rehab the injury and get to race day.  I won’t kid you it is always hard for me to do this and I do feel a little disappointment in myself.  I feel like maybe I am being a wimp and how can I be a group leader if I can’t even do the distance? 

Sometimes it is just as coach B says “Playing Smart so that you get to run another day. Not being a hero and ending up being off for 2 months with an injury”  So fellow athletes don’t sweat it if you are short a bit or need to call it you will still get to race day if you train smarter not necessarily harder.

Peace Out



Monday, March 5, 2012

Avoiding injury depression

As the mileage starts to increase the aches and pains increase and the chance of injury as well.

Recently I started listening to Podcasts .  One podcast I am enjoying immensely is IM Talk. 

They talk about everything to do with Ironman, triathlon training, racing, nutrition, and so on and so forth.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in triathlon.

One of the topics on their most recent podcast was Injury and how to not become depressed and stressed out while rehabbing.   As soon as they started talking about it I knew I was nodding my head and thinking Bingo. 

We all know what it is like - we start out training and then it becomes part of our life, it defines us and it is what we do. The sense of pride and accomplishment that we get after we finish that 29km run on Sunday morning.   Especially as we decide to get into longer distances - marathon, Ironmans and Ultra's.  Things go great and then all of the sudden boom injured.

 Most of us freak out - go into denial, train a little bit more thinking it is not an injury thus really injuring ourselves....  Finally when it is painfully obvious that we are injured we starting thinking about how we get back in the game.  We are like junkies - come on admit it- you start to obsess.

OMG I am losing all my fitness what am I going to do?!?!
How am I going to keep up when I get back?
What can I do for training - can I sneak in a run/ swim/ bike? Do weights - give me something....

NON-REFUNDABLE entry , I have to get back at it - I paid for the race.

Then when you are told 6 ways from Sunday that you are on the bench you start harassing your physio - can I go out now?  how about Now,  WHAT ABOUT NOW to the point they consider refusing you as a client.

You sit on the couch and mope, you snap at your family and friends and figure you might as well have the bowl of ice cream because it does not matter anyways. Your spouse can't bear to be around you because you are so miserable- you have officially hit rock bottom.

Well the pod cast was great it talked about all of this and said that one of the things as athletes that we can do to help is to have outside interests.  So that when we are injured we have other things to do to take our mind off the training.  They talked about how to find other things to build up your esteem and make you proud of yourself not just the sports.  One of the speakers plays music so he said that even in the heart of training he will make sure that he takes a few hours to just play and perform his music - even if it is just for his family. 

They gave examples of other things:

Playing Golf
Taking Cooking classes
Joining a Book Club

They talked about making sure that we are well-rounded with other interests so that if and when an injury comes along we have other things that provide us with esteem and a sense of accomplishment.  That way we can ward off the depression that comes from missing the training/races while we continue to rehab and recover. 

All great thoughts and I know for me I am going to take their words to heart and try to focus on mroe than just my training.

peace out