Archive | training RSS feed for this section

My Favorite Landform

19 Jul

Jack Handy once told me that, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Not lifting weights doesn’t kill you. Therefore, not lifting weights makes you stronger.” As someone who avoids weight rooms like the plague and despises squats, burpees, and leg presses, I love that advice. So, I flee from those large artificially lit rooms full of strange men grunting, wildly moving weights, the constant thumping and whirring of people on treadmills and fans circulating their sweat, and I run to the hills.

It’s easy to follow me. As soon as you hear a teenage kid with a giant RaceTrac coke hanging out a truck, yelling, and mistaking you for some guy named Forrest, then you know you’re headed the right direction. You can find short abrupt hills, long steep hills, short gradual hills, hills that wind around for miles, soft sandy hills, rocky uneven hills, Mississippi mole hills, Montana’s mountains, and undulating hill sections that include outrageous climbs, gradual inclines, flat reprieves and nice rolling topography. There aren’t necessarily any rules, no must haves or precise measurements, just nice simple running on something other than a track.

What they help:

If nothing else, practicing hills alleviates that feeling in a race where you round a turn at the bottom a giant elevation change and think “Oh snap! I’m gonna die!” Furthermore, while hill training can have wildly different forms, all of them are going to train your hip flexors to lift with more energy, encourage your glutes and calves to push off with more force, and increase your cardiovascular capabilities. The pronounced toe off, exaggerated arm swing, and driving knee lift necessary to carry you up an incline can tax your body just as much as any weight room session and do it in a fashion that many argue is much more natural, specific, and useful to the runner. In other words, hill training will force your body to become more efficient and build better running form. Hills will facilitate both speed and strength training in a way that reduces the amount of pounding on your legs and decrease risk of injury. Also, don’t just think about the uphills. Going downhill is a huge help as well. When you get sore after a hilly run, the main reason is often actually because of the downhills. Our muscles are great at contracting and generating force, but it is a little trickier to allow a muscle to lengthen under an extreme amount of force. That flexibility is exactly what we need to train when running downhill. As you descend, you tend to land with a fair amount of force, and, unless you have perfect form, your quads act as a break. It will flex to slow you down, relax a bit, flex, relax, etc. until you finally toe off at the end of the stride. That movement of course, works your quadriceps very hard and also tends to cause scores of tiny micro-tears in your muscles that can take a day or two to repair. However, it is that process of tearing and rebuilding that fortifies your body. All of that is just to say, either way you do them, hills make you stronger.

Where they take you:

As a rule, short hills of any repeat under three minutes will do more for increasing your Vo2 max (anaerobic capabilities and processing of oxygen), while repeats longer than that or mid-run hills will mainly improve your lactate threshold (your ability to get rid of lactic acid).

Short hills are meant to be run fast. You can design your own workout of say 2 sets of 10 repeats, tack a few on at the end of another workout altogether, or just add a few to the end of a normal run once or twice a week. Keep them less than 200 meters (even just 10 seconds of hill works well), pick the slightly steeper hills, and make sure that your jog back to the start gives you enough time to catch your breath. Also, as with any workout, take a few minutes of jogging to warm up before you start the hard stuff and do the same for a cool down. You will quickly notice how much these shorter hills in particular require of your abs, lower back, hamstrings, and core muscles in general and understand why they develop your explosive fast twitched muscles. You’ll also find that they’re great for speed training while still building up your mileage.

Long Hills are great for overall strength and stamina in a slightly different way. They still work your core, but serve as a sort of replacement for the mid-range (600-1200 meter) repeats you may do on the track once your big race nears. Try to run these hills at about 5k or 10k race pace and back off to about 75 percent of that pace while running back down the hill. The point here is to keep going. Don’t stop. You will naturally catch your breath by the time you reach the bottom of the hill and the continuous nature of the workout does wonders for your aerobic system, mental strength, and ensures that you don’t fall apart at your next race’s final miles or mid-route hill.

How it looks:

You can find all sorts of advice an instruction on perfect form and what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to running. But really, we all know that you just get up, put one foot in front of the other, and move as quickly as you can. The human body is an amazing machine and is excellent at searching out its own best way of accomplishing the tasks set before it. However, if you are one of those interested in aiding that development, then there are a few basic tips. When you encounter a hill during a normal run or race, maintain the same effort level. In doing this, your pace will decrease slightly as you go up the hills, accordion back out to its normal cadence as you crest the incline, and you will conserve much more energy than those who feel like they have something to prove to gravity. Also, it is good to remember that just a little focus on form can go a long way when it comes to hills. Run tall. By this, I mean that you want to keep you center of mass underneath you at all times. If you keep your hips tall, you will be less likely to run hunched over and will consequently breath much easier. Also, this practice helps keep your ankles, hips, and shoulders in a straight and erect line upon toe-off. Picture a vertical plank. Now, tilt that plank just slightly forward. If your three main pivot points (ankles, hips, shoulders) are in line like that plank, then your stride will be much more efficient. You don’t really have to focus too much on how much shorter your stride gets or how well you hold your center of mass – if you are over-striding up hill, you will know and you’ll get tired real quick.

Finally, if all else fails and there really are no hills to be found, then I pity you. But, don’t worry, stairs can work too! So, as you get ready to train and watch the upcoming Olympics, remember that previously mentioned comedian’s advice. “When Armageddon comes, it would be good to be an Olympic athlete, because running real fast and jumping over stuff could come in handy.”

Check out a video of my friends and elite runners, Josh and Sara, doing their own hill training on the way up to Lake Mary (Mammoth Lakes, CA):


Long Live the Long Run

11 Jul

It’s not just for Marathoners.

Anyone else remember how Arthur Lydiard trained his 8oo meter runner Peter Snell? Snell won the 800 meter Olympic gold in 1960. Lydiard decided that was not enough and made Snell train for a Marathon. Two months later Snell ran a world record in the metric mile and went on to win gold in both the 1500 and the 800 meter races. You might not be out on the track in London two weeks from now, and you might not want to join the mileage hogs you see training for Boston, but the long run is still for you.

What is it?

A standard Long run is going to be 18-25% of your weekly mileage and at 70-80% of your 5k race pace. It’s also good to try and make your long run at least one hour to get the full physical benefits from the effort. So, if you run 30 miles per week and hope to break 25 minutes (8:02 pace) at the next Chick-fil-A Connect Race in the series, you might have one 7.5 mile run per week at a 9:50-10:50 pace per mile. In order to ensure that you don’t torture yourself, take the first fifteen minutes to stretch out and ease into things, keep it steady in the middle, and quicken things up a bit the last fifteen. And of course, masochism never pays off. Thanks to the law of diminishing returns, if you push too hard, run too long, or don’t properly refuel, then you can cancel any plans for decent speed sessions the next week.

What is it good for?

You can probably imagine that the ability to run for two hours will give you a fair share of confidence the next time you run a 5k, but LSD (Long Steady Distance) can do more than that. It has a powerful ability to teach your body efficiency. First off, running more than normal will strengthen your muscles. What is even better is that the most important muscle of all, your heart, will begin to pump more blood per beat. This increased stroke volume results in more blood, more oxygen, and more fuel for the rest of your muscles. In addition to that, the long run stimulates your muscles to burn fat more efficiently, build more capillaries, store more glycogen and myoglobin, stimulates your cells to form more mitochondria (where most aerobic process take place), and increases the efficiency of the enzymes within that mitochondria. In other words, you will be able to both distribute and process more fuel.  With that increased facilitation of fuel, your body will better resist fatigue.

The carry-out?

Build up your long run. Get excited to See David Rudisha set an 800 meter world record in London. Eventually taper your training so that you can set your own record at the next CFA Race Series 5k.


Beat the Heat

4 Jul

Happy 4th of July everybody, we hope you have a blast with your friends and family!  When you think of the 4th images of fireworks, cookouts and boats come to mind.  Another thing is the July heat….

Six pounds lost in one day. You have to give credit to good old southern heat. The sad thing is that I have no interest in losing weight, and even less in miscalculating my schedule and having to run in the afternoon during a nation-wide heat wave. But, if any of the rest of you are as addicted to running as I am, then even a 7:00 pm run that leaves you sopping wet, dehydrated, and plastered with bugs is better than no run at all.

If you do end up battling the sun and humidity, here are a few recommendations from a guy who has done most of his life’s training in the South. The first and only rule is: Always run in the morning if you know that it is going to be hot that day. Seeing the sunrise during a run does so much more for your morning than a cup of coffee.

However, if for some reason you miss the first light, there is still a way to ensure a nice run before the next cycle of the clock. Hydrate. Try to weigh yourself before and after your run every once in a while. The scales will put every weight loss program to shame and probably scare you into drinking enough water.

So, why is water important and how much is enough? Human life depends on blood flow and the nutrients that it brings our billions of cells. As we sweat and become dehydrated, our blood volume decreases. This results in less blood circulating and fewer necessities reaching our muscles. Thus, the heart has to compensate with a higher rate of pumping and hinders you from moving as quickly or as far as you can in cooler temperatures. This issue also means that we need to focus more on rehydration and recovery to avoid excessive fatigue over a period of days.

As a general rule of thumb, it is good to rehydrate by drinking the 1.5 times the weight of water that was lost on the run in your subsequent post-exercise hours. Simply replacing the same amount of water weight is insufficient because our bodies can’t absorb 100 percent of what it takes in. Our lack of precise timing in that process doesn’t usually help either. If that really irks you, or if you have a love of sugary drinks, then you probably also know that drinks like Gatorade can help. This aiding process is due mainly to the fact that fluids with large amounts of sodium increase our muscles absorption capacity.

So, if you find yourself at the Peachtree tomorrow and just can’t get the race officials to let you start with the elite field when the sun is still sleepy, then make sure you are hydrated before going to bed, run happy, drink lots of water when you finish, and (if you are lucky enough to be caught on camera wearing a Chick-fil-A Race Series shirt) enjoy a free milkshake.

Josh D