Saturday, October 18, 2014
My first answer takes a bit more analysis. I run to "stay healthy" so that eliminated the types of running done by most runners. I don't run to race. I don't run for a specific time or pace. Maybe because I'm a former Division I collegiate athlete, I've competed my whole life for big prizes and the idea of killing myself for a cheap medal doesn't interest me. I know, I know, the response is people do it for the accomplishment but I can reach the same accomplishment on my own, on my own terms and in my own way. This also allows me to stay injury free because I don't run according to some crazy plan or schedule. This also eliminates ultra-type running. Yes, I've run one (1) 50k but I soon realized, the ultra distance isn't about staying healthy or in shape. That's about something else and in fact, it can enter a zone that is counter productive to staying healthy. I see no reason to run those types of distances. One can stay extremely healthy running anything from a 5k to half marathon distance. It's more about consistency and repetition at that point. I'm healthier today averaging 40 miles per week than I was back when I was in the 60+ mile per week range. The reduced mileage allows me to run 7 days per week (there's the consistency and repetition) yet stay injury free without putting unnecessary load on my body. I do one (1) hard workout per week in the 8-10 mile range with half of it in the 6:30 pace range but otherwise I do 90% of my running in the 9-10:00 pace range.
The second part of the answer, is if I run to feel good, then I don't need gadgets like Garmin watches. I don't need to monitor everything related to my running. Some of the data available is absolutely ridiculous. Now, I do need my body and since my body is my gadget, it took many years to understand what it was telling me. Once I understood what it was telling me, it took years to understand how to respond. The only way to understand what it was telling me was to remove anything blocking communication paths and that started with the modern shoe. The modern shoe blocks the messages from my feet to my brain and that's very dangerous. Garmin-like watches also block the ability to hear the body because the brain focuses on stupid things like distance, pace and/or some pre-determined running plan or schedule. The funny thing about running plans is your body will customize its own running schedule if you let it. As I've run injury for 5 years, I compared this current year to the first year I ran injury free because the enjoyment I felt from 1 year of injury free running was so awesome and it's how I feel right now. Low and behold, my running schedule, as set by my body, is almost the same. I run 7 days per week. I average about 40 minutes per run Monday through Friday and two (2) of those days, I run closer to 30 minutes and I refer to those runs as "rest day runs" and they are essentially physical and mental recovery days. Then, I do one hard workout, generally on Saturday, averaging 60-80 minutes, half of which is at tempo to race pace (anything in the 5:55 - 6:55 pace range). Sunday is generally 45-60 min. run, at an easy pace, usually on trails (I do 75% of all my running on trails). As for the expensive and worthless Garmin, I know what pace I'm running by feel. Based on effort, turn over and feel, I'm within :10 sec. per mile of what any watch would tell me.
Now for the part no one really likes to discuss because we are culture of gullible idiots when it comes to believing marketing hype. The modern running shoe is one of the most destructive inventions of the modern times . . . the basic running shoe of the 1960's and early 1970's is all we really needed but we love to take it too far, then so far we lose control and perspective . . . welcome to the modern running shoe. If you believe the natural design of the human body is flawed and broken then stop now and read no further otherwise you cannot, under any circumstances defend or support the design of the modern running shoe. An elevated heel to put the body off balance . . . down right stupid and makes no sense. Excessive cushioning to eliminate proprioception . . . incredibly dangerous as you have no control over your body and ultimately your stride. Inflexibility with motion control and other designs to create stiff shoes . . . oh yea, the natural foot is flexible so if you want to run with braces on your feet, enjoy developing very weak feet which ultimately will result in injury and burning money on all types of gadgets to make your feet even weaker. Lastly, our bare feet . . . my god, our bare feet are ingenious but we love to dumb it down. Remember the sheer joy of running barefoot as a kid . . . well, how did we do it? Because we were young? Crap!!! It's because that's exactly how we were designed. Now, I'm not saying the foot doesn't need minimal protection from the modern elements in the world but that's all it needs. Of course, shoe companies can't allow this to become status quo because the revenue impact would be tremendous. Imagine someone like me who pays $45 for a pair of running shoes that last 18-24 months . . . I'm a shoe companies nightmare.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
On the other hand, thank god for having 11 new pair as it's clear the major shoe companies have won the war (the minimalist movement put up a good fight albeit brief) and, as an industry, they are reverting back to overly designed, cushioned and support ridden shoe designs. That will guarantee one trend . . . a high percentage of injured runners on a yearly basis. At this point, it's not about the poorly designed shoes . . . it's about the running public that won't contest what is so obvious . . . just a basic level of common sense would lead one to question the design of running shoes when compared to the natural human foot. Couple that with the fact that the vast majority of runners do not want to make the sacrifice required to correct all the bad habits . . . bad form, weak muscle, weak tendons, misalignment, imbalance, etc. It's a long process, at least it was for me . . . about 8 years of blood, sweat and tears but oh my god was it worth it . . . I've learned it's one of those things where I just need to be thankful and humbled that I was able to figure it out . . . it doesn't require one to be a rocket scientist but it requires avoiding the easy road and traveling the hard road to find the answer . . . . what is the saying? need to go through hell to get to heaven :)
Monday, September 29, 2014
"It took four million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait, a remarkable feat of bioengineering. Yet, in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot. We have converted a beautiful thoroughbred into a plodding plowhorse."
Nothing more to say . . . there is, unfortunately, no perfectly designed running shoe (yet). The closest for me is the Puma H-Street. The VivoBarefoot Evo has the most potential but they continue to miss the boat as it's too heavy and causes blisters. If someone ever combined the best attributes of the H-Street and Evo, it would be a beautiful thing.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
To this point, I was tested again and long and behold my foot strike has changed slightly from slight under-pronation to a neutral foot strike. Of course, with a neutral foot strike you still pronate but the fine line between pronating and under-pronating is an important and critical distinction. So what has changed? It's simple and I know what it is. It's "Relaxation," plain and simple. I run completely relaxed and that has resulted in the slight change in foot strike. In fact, there's hardly any wear and tear on the soles of my shoes in the spots that would indicate under or over-pronation . . . the wear and tear is that of a neutral foot striker.
I'm not sure how I arrived here but within the past 3-4 months, I've been thinking more about being relaxed, regardless of the pace, whether warm-up or race pace. I've also been thinking about Fred Rohe and his writing "The Zen of Running" and how he preaches about always being relaxed and never running with stress or pushing too hard. For me, it's about comfortably hard running but also being totally relaxed and if I need to push too hard which, by the way, results in a dramatic increase in impact forces, I find that relaxed mode and I run as hard as I can provided I'm relaxed . . . anything faster that results in me not being relaxed is something I don't do anymore . . . if I feel the impact forces are too high, my arms are tight, breathing not controlled, etc., then I re-focused and find that relaxed rhythm and stay in that zone. By the way, the more relaxed, the faster I run comfortably, however, there's a limit how fast you can run relaxed . . . if I have to push off harder then that's the zone I do not enter anymore. As a result, I feel tremendous and every muscle and tendon feels great (for example, I can squeeze and pinch both achilles tendons with no pain or discomfort whatsoever . . . that's what I'm talking about).
I'm all about Running Relaxed.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
I asked him to continue and he explained the 3 phases:
- Phase 1 (Years 1-3), he called it the "Adaption and Hell Phase." Now, 3 years is a long time in hell. He said it was hell because I would suffer every injury known to a runner during this 3 year period . . . achilles tendonitis, plantar tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, top of the foot pain, sciatic pain, back pain, calf pulls, strains, tears, and the list goes on and on. The point was it would take 3 years for every tendon and muscle to adapt to running regularly. The question was whether I was committed to push through this 3 years of hell. He said 95% of runners will not commit to continuing through this painful time but if I did, the reward down the road would be great . . . little did I know how right he was.
- Phase 2 (Years 4-7), he called it the "Discovery Phase" because it was during this phase that a runner discover his/her body, researches everything in the world about running and starts to place running as one of the more important things in their lives. This is when you join every online group, runner's club, etc., and you and running start to become one. This is also when you try everything from barefoot running (at least for me) and you focus on every single aspect of running whether it's landing lightly, high turnover, short stride, claw back, Pose, Chi, and then there's shoes, oh my god, there's shoes. Flexible or rigid, support or no support, heel deviation or zero drop, light or heavy, road vs. trail vs. mountain surfaces (and don't let me get started on diet). The point here is you discover and mold yourself into a runner. You set PR's, finish your first marathon . . . for me, the most memorable was at the age of 43, I ran my first sub 18:00 5k (17:42) . . . that was last year. Of course, the best part for me was after Year 4, I didn't suffer another significant injury . . . nothing that stopped me from running every day . . . no pain that impacted my running (that's always the #1 goal) and that runner told me if I made it through Phase 1, that day would come.
- Phase 3 (Years 8-10), he called it the "Refinement Phase." My friends this is where I'm at. He said this is when you are ready to understand the subtleties of running and you make slight tweaks that make all the difference in the world. I'm in the midst of this right now and after all these years of a short quick stride, my turnover has decreased slightly and my stride length has increased, all while landing correctly. I know understand what the paw back is and it makes all the difference in the world especially with respect to performance, speed and efficiency. I understand the placement of my arms, hips, etc. I've learned to run by feel and control my paces without the aid of a Garmin watch. After all these years, I'm finally starting to get it. I've learned to not counsel other runners as they must go on this journey alone (of course, I answer questions if asked).
So why did I share this? Well, just to say, anyone can do it but the question is "Are you willing to go through hell to get to heaven." Ultimately, it's about commitment . . . remember motivation is EASY, habit is HARD . . . all champions have HABIT.
Friday, January 31, 2014
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
After 97 consecutive days of running, I noticed that it was "mentally" tough to run for just 40-45 minutes. I took note of this and also took into account external factors, including the bad weather (5 straight days of snow and below 10F temperatures), inability to run outdoors and especially on the trails I love, being regulated to the treadmill due to bad weather, heavy load of work, and early morning kids activities. My body felt fine but not my mind. So, I've dedicated this week as a "back off week," or call it a "recovery week." This week, all my runs will be 20-30 minutes (likely on the treadmill, barefoot) . . . heck, maybe just a 1 mile run (we'll see how it goes).
It's time to recover and heal, more mentally than physically. When you suffer mentally, it can turn into a physical thing and you can even get sloppy with your focus which can directly or indirectly lead to bad form and technique and ultimately injury. I have friends who don't see the connection between mental fatigue and potential injury, but it's real . . .
Trust me . . . when you feel off, start to take literal notes of what's going on inside and outside . . . don't ignore the signals . . . acknowledge and address it!!!
Monday, January 7, 2013
My favorite surface for barefoot running is the treadmill or an astro-turf football field. I tend to have a 4-6 stride per minute delta between unshod and shod, that is, I have a quicker turnover while barefoot which is pretty normal but the key is that barefoot running allows me to maintain a healthy turnover while in shoes and, as importantly, it keeps my stride controlled to avoid over-striding. I don't believe in the super short stride that folks talk about with barefoot running because you can under-stride just as much as over-stride and both are damaging although over-striding is more problematic. I true barefoot runner actually has a healthy stride length yet still lands balance, controlled and with a good center of gravity (just watch Zola Budd).
Best of all, when you really have tired legs and need a true recovery run, there's nothing easier than barefoot running, nothing lighter than your barefoot and nothing as light and easy as barefoot running.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
What do Orthotics and shoes actually do? Looking at data from a professional runner (click here if you can't read this post)
So what you'll find below is a chart comparingI’ve included pictures below
|Orthotics?||change||Change (deg)||Degree||Ground Contact||Flight Time||Footstrike||Heel-toe drop|
Footstrike degree- 90deg= knee and ankle of foot are at 90deg angle. So
greater the degree, means further out ankle is in front of knee at footstrike.
(Heel toe drop is using data from outside sources, not measured)
Pictures of shoes at footstrike- NO Orthotic on left. Orthotic on right
(except for Nike free, Katana, and streak XC- NO Orthotics on those)
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Pace Stride Rate (average)
You'll hear may folks say that 180 strides per minute so stay consistent regardless of pace. This is largely a lie and inaccurate. I'm sure a few runners do but many runners will increase stride rate (and length) as they increase pace. As reported by Steve Magness, here's some date from top NCAA runners at UTEP:
Pace Stride Rate
Given that, I'm quite satisfied with my 178-180 strides per minute at 6:42 pace. My 5k race pace is slightly sub 6:00 pace so it's safe to say, I would be over the 180 threshold. Even Steve Magness (very accomplished runner in his own right) reported the following after testing himself:
Pace Stride Rate
So why is there such a focus on the "180 stride rate?" Well, because many recreational runner over-stride and that causes many problems and ultimately injuries. However, after you achieve a certain level of competence with respect to your stride, you can start to focus on strength length and becoming an even more efficient runner. Remember, the "180" comes from analysis provided by legendary coach Jack Daniels but he was analyzing elite level runners at tempo pace. Many elite Kenyan runners has been measured as low as the mid 160's while warming up but they are all largely over 180 "at tempo pace," and that's the key.
There's nothing wrong with forcing shorter and quicker strides while learning to run but you'll hit a level of competence where a baby steps not only feel wrong but are inefficient and instead of over-striding, you will under-stride and that can also causes issues.
Remember, keep it in perspective.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
I've had a few inquires as to what a speed day workout looks like for me. So, today, I did a 5k trial run with a few folks on dirt. Here's what my workout looks like:
1. Wake up at 5:45am and do 5-10 min. of foot exercises consisting of towel crunches and rolling over a golf ball, both feet.
2. Massage my calves with a tennis ball and hard form roller over the IT band
3. Walk around the house for 5-10 min.
4. 45 min. of barefoot running on the treadmill. I break it up in phases which helps mentally with running on the treadmill. First 20 minutes is the warm-up, then I start to steadily increase pace.
5. 1 mile warm-up outdoors, running to the location for the 5k run on the trails
6. 5k run checking my form, feel and pace every 400 meters. Completed the 5k in 18:39. My goal was sub 19:00 so mission accomplished.
7. .5 mile easy run back to the house
8. 15 min. of barefoot running on the treadmill as the cool down.
9. 10 min. of light stretching, mostly the quads and hamstrings + balancing exercises.
That's about it. A lot of stuff just to run a 5k, huh? Well, speed and hard runs are not to be messed with. If you approach them wrong, the only guarantee is a guaranteed injury. I basically had to run easy for more than 1 hr. in order to prepare for a hard 5k run. As a masters runner, I have to pay even closer attention to properly prepare my body for hard workouts.
Monday, December 17, 2012
1. The heavier mileage is very time consuming (well, that's obvious :) and I tend to shed another 5-7 lbs. which sounds great but I'm already thin and it really is the threshold between to types of bodies for different purposes. When I'm at the lower mileage range, I do a lot more race pace training and I tend to do a lot more upper, lower and core training . . . long story short, I'm stronger at the lower mileage range although I don't have the level of endurance I have at the higher mileage range. At the high mileage range, my body looks like a marathoner as opposed to more of the 800 meter to 1 mile runners who tend to be slightly heavier with more muscle and definition. Well, I like the latter. I don't like the feel of the marathon body, plus I like speed so I'm returning to what I call my "5k body" vs. the "marathon body."
2. Running is an important "part" of my life but not my life. The more you push toward 100 mile weeks, running become more than just a part, especially for us folks with spouses and kids. I run to be more fit, happier and a better person but running is something I do and weave into my life and not the reverse where I weave life into running. So, in my world, that's the difference between a 5-6 mile weekly day run vs. a 8-10 mile weekly day run. The former allows me to see my kids in the morning and watch them head out the door. The latter requires me to leave before they get up and return after they've left for school. I choose the former.
3. I'm ultra competitive which is just in my DNA from being a high school and collegiate athlete so I admit I need something I can excel at and I can do very well at the 5k and still have a normal life vs. the time and training required to excel at the marathon.
4. I don't like being injured and less miles reduces my chances for injury as well as it eliminates having to constantly run in a fatigued state. That isn't fun. I've gone months where I run every day in a fatigued state and I don't like it.
5. I like running every day and with this approach, I'm stronger and it allows me to absorb workouts on a 7 day a week basis without overloading my body to maintain a level of fitness for the longer distances.
I've been reminded that you clearly need to answer, for yourself, "why do you run and what makes you smile" While I try different things with my running, my answer tends to be the same.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
I think any of us can get caught up in the sheer numbers, that is, the weekly and monthly mileage number which shouldn't be focus. Just hitting "a number" may result in destroying the love and fun of running. It's why I seldom run with a watch (other than my race pace runs which only occur once every 7-10 days). Data can be very useful but it can also be very harmful.
I've gone back and forth in my training over the years but it's pretty clear that I'm a 5k/10k runner and that's what I am. While I have run, and can run, half marathons and full marathons (even one 50k to my credit), it just doesn't map to my emotional make-up and I'm coming to terms with that. In a runner's world where many define running by the longer distances, I realize that's about money and popularity. As one race director told me, "the 5k, 5 mile and 10 mile races are absolutely wonderful but they take the same amount of work to setup and maintain as the half or full marathon in many respects and the money is in the longer distances as that's why folks want to run."
I'd further state that many marathon runners are not equipped to run the marathon because they haven't become efficient runners yet and if they learned how to master the 5k, then 10k, then half, they would do much better but that's not our society. We think "big" and want immediate satisfaction and this may also correlate to the very high yearly injury rate of runners. Many folks know my story. After many years of solid running, I came across an elite runner who ran along side me and we started talking and, long story short, he said if I wanted to become a good runner, I needed to learn how to "run one block efficiently, then 2 blocks, then 1 mile, then 2 miles, etc." Talk about a blow to my ego but I so appreciated the honestly as I marveled at how smooth a runner he was and he reminded me he had been running "shorter" distances as a kid (to school and back) and over time became efficient enough to tackle longer distances. He went on to recommend that I spend 1 full year "only" running 5k's which I did and that was the beginning of me become not yet a runner, but a pretty efficient and talented runner (from a recreational perspective :) of course). Then I started to lower by 5k time to sub 20:00, sub 19:00, and sub 18:00.
So what's the point of this post? Great question as I jumped all over the place. You decide if there's any value in what I've said :)
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
- Safety: When it is too dark out to safely navigate your route, or when the weather has left the terrain iced over or slick enough to invite a fall and possible injury.
- Workout Quality: If the conditions outside don't allow you to run safely at a faster pace, you can turn to the treadmill to make sure you're able to hit the proper level of exertion.
- Hills and Incline Training: If you don't have access to a steep hill or an incline that is long enough, you can create your own using the grade on a treadmill.
- Injury Prevention: The belt of the treadmill is more forgiving than the hard pavement; running on a treadmill reduces impact and is easier on the body. This can be especially important for those coming back from an injury.
- Family: Leaving the kids unattended to go out for a run isn't exactly a glowing parent strategy. "I use a treadmill because I need to be close to my family, and we got our treadmill the day our second son Grant was born. I watch both our sons most mornings and I can still do my workouts and spend time with them," explains Michael Wardian, an elite ultrarunner who does much of his training on the treadmill.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Like it or not, I've over 40 years old and I have to recognize changes in my body, adaption capabilities, recovery and muscles stresses. It's just life and you acknowledge and start to build a plan around it or you ignore and end up seriously injured and/or unhappy. I just listened to a great interview on Masters Training by Coach Greg McMillan which you can pull up on iTunes in the podcast section (it's free). Coach McMillan identifies 3 types of masters runners:
1. the one that competed in high school and at the collegiate level, left the sport after college, and comes back
2. the one that picks up runner later in life, generally in their mid to late 30's and realizes they are pretty good
3. the one that competed in high school, college and never stops.
The #3 category is extremely rare as Coach McMillan points out. #1 and #2 account for the vast majority of masters runners and I'm clearly a #2. Having played high school and college basketball, I picked up running around age 37 and realized as I was pretty good having regularly finished in the top 5-10% in races against my similar aged counterparts (and I've won a 5k outright against collegiate runners). Coach McMillan had different advice for the #1 vs. #2 runner and I'll selfishly focus on the #2 runner because the #1 runner, as he pointed out, has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge from their prior running life which has pro's and con's. The #2 runner has no mental remembrance so it's all new.
The key that he points out is focusing on the "adaption" cycle. Generally speaking it will take a masters runner 1-2x additional days to recovery from hard and long runs so the key is to spread the stresses. He recommended the following approach:
1. decrease the number of total workouts and mileage
2. focus on recovery
3. focus on "key" workouts (speed and long runs for example) and make sure you are recovery before and after such key workouts
The basic message is to match the training to the adaption capabilities. Just running sheer miles for the sake of miles will significantly increase your chances for injury and burnout. The other factor to support that which another coach highlighted is that it can take 3-5x longer for a masters runner to recovery from injury. A injury that might take a few days for a 20 something to recover can take 2-4 weeks for a masters runner to recovery so the message is clear that the best way to avoid injury is to "not" get injured, hence the focus on recovery and smart running.
All of this has me re-assessing the increase mileage against the ultimate strategy and goal of "quality over quantity." At the simplistic level, I'm comparing my 40-45 mpw and hitting key workouts vs. 60-70 mpw and continuing to run in a fatigued state and not being able to incorporate as many key workouts (i.e., having to do more easy and medium effort runs).