Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A week with my body not accepting conventional wisdom

Conventional wisdom would say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and that's exactly where I'm at with my running. I've been injury free for years and other than running in Luna's this past summer, I've been running fast and injury free in Nike Zoom Streak XC's so shouldn't I be happy and satisfied? I thought so until last week when I decided to wear my Evo's to walk around all day and the next morning my body and soul refused to run in the Nike's. I woke up and my spirit and body said it wanted to really feel the power of the earth and so I laced up my Evo's and went for a short run but it turned into a long run.

The next day I had a sore right hip and I've never had a sore hip (not to mention I could feel the weight difference of the Evo vs. Nike's), so I switched back to the Nike XC's and the hip pain immediately disappeared so conventional wisdom would say keep running in your Nike's. Well, I woke up the next morning and my soul demanded again to be closer to the earth with a better feeling of the ground, even with all the snow and ice outside, so I went back to the Evo's and had a very enjoyable run and my hip pain was all but gone.

So, obviously, I was intrigued by the source of my hip pain and I had a friend count my stride rate while barefoot vs. Luna's and Evo's vs. Nike XC's and as expected there was what I consider a material deviation in my stride rate when comparing the Nike's vs. Luna's and Evo's. In the Luna's and Evo's my stride rate (per minute at a 8:30 pace) was 184 while it was 176 in Nike's. Then my friend said I ran taller (straight) while in Luna's/Evo's vs. Nike's where I had more of a forward lean. Lastly, we measured my stride and it was longer in the Nike's. So much of this is as expected but it does cause one to ponder.

First, it further validates the impact of different footwear and each deviation from barefoot has consequences. Now, for me the consequences don't translate to injury but nevertheless there are differences. Second, I started to think about potential longer term impacts. If I engage my hips when I'm closer to a barefoot state then I'm not engaging them as much in traditional racing shoes like the Nike XC's and that requires a deeper evaluation than just the injury issue (as people get older you often hear about hip problems and as such, am I weakening my hips by not engaging them enough thus leading to possible future problems . . . in other words, perhaps the focus should be on keeping the body as engaged as possible as we get older which may result in a stronger overall body . . . this is about health not racing). Third, and I personally believe this has something to do with the Blackfoot Indian blood running through my veins as the feeling was spiritual and powerful, why did my body demand to be closer to barefoot when I was already running fast and injury free in the Nike's? It was a powerful desire by my body and such that I couldn't ignore it which drove me back to the Evo's and Luna's.

I find myself in a very interesting situation. I run without issue in my Nike's (and it's fun running) but obviously something powerful is missing if at this point in my running life my body yearns to be closer to the ground (this has happened before and each time the feeling comes back more powerful, then goes away, but eventually comes back even more powerful than before). And, after all is said and done, my 5k PR of 17:42 was set in Evo's :) and my 4th fastest time was set in Luna's, not traditional running shoes.

As always, I'd appreciate everyone's thoughts. All my recent struggles have been on spiritual (I'm blessed to not be dealing with injury concerns).


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Discovering a new running cycle . .

I'm not sure how I discovered this but I've fallen into a 5 day running cycle that has been just awesome. I look at every 5 day period as a new and separate running period.

During this 5 day period, I do the following:

* 1 hard run whether that's tempo, interval, or long run with race pace

* 3 easy runs and 1 of those runs are 100% barefoot (usually treadmill
during the winter)

* 1 rest day (completely off)

*Note: at the end of practically every run, I do 5-10 min. of
barefoot running as a cool down.

The results so far have been awesome. Shrinking it down to such a small period of time (5 days) has also been great mentally and works well with business travel also. I don't know which days I do which runs or which day I use as a rest day as I let me body decide it but this also accomplishes a few other things. The vast majority of my running is easy aerobic running; hard days are at a minimum (but I go "hard" on hard days) and there's a lot of easy days/rest days between hard workouts; and most importantly, I'm embracing "true rest days" . . . not recovery runs but true rest days.

Lastly, this has allowed me to incorporate core and upper body strengthening. As a result, I'm adding weight and muscle but I feel great. I've decided I much prefer to look like a 400-800 meter runner vs. a marathon runner . . . my wife agrees :)

As always, the journey continues . . .


Monday, December 12, 2011

So what's been going on . . .

Well, I've been working on running slower as weird as that may sound but I'm working on running easier on my easy days so I can run harder on my hard days. I've discovered that I've pretty much been running in a pre-fatigued state for years and never really ran easy, even on easy days where I was still running a sub 8:00 pace. This is likely why I've been fatigued for my hard workouts.

I'm feeling great after a week or so of testing this out. I rarely run sub 9:00 on easy days and I just float along and often feel like I didn't even get a workout even after a 7-8 mile easy run. The great part is I feel really strong when I push into hard workouts. On this front, I've reduced the number of hard workouts on a monthly basis. I run by feel so I looked at my log to try to find trends and I think I may have discovered a framework for me which is based on a 10 day running cycle with 2x mini 5 day sections. Basically, over 10 days, I will run 8 and rest 2 and within that it's basically a 4:1 ratio of run days to rest days every 5 days and during each 5 day cycle I will do 3 easy runs, 1 rest day, and either a long run or speed/interval work. That means, over a 10 day cycle I will do 1 hard speed session, 1 long run, 2 rest days and 6 easy days.

So far my body is loving it. We'll see how it goes.


Friday, December 2, 2011

I've been really bad with my posting lately . . .

but I've been running strong so all is good. I'm in the midst of figuring out the best mix of easy and hard running as well as incorporating recovery and rest days. This is a tricky mix as every runner knows. Here's an interesting article on recovery runs:

A Fresh Perspective on Recovery Runs

Recovery runs increase your fitness by having you run in a pre-fatigued state.
It is widely assumed that the purpose of recovery runs--which we may define as relatively short, slow runs undertaken within 24 hours after a harder run--is to facilitate recovery from preceding hard training. You hear coaches talk about how recovery runs increase blood flow to the legs, clearing away lactic acid and so forth. The truth is that lactic acid levels return to normal within an hour after even the most brutal workouts. Nor does lactic acid cause muscle fatigue in the first place. Nor is there any evidence that the sort of light activity that a recovery run entails promotes muscle tissue repair, glycogen replenishment or any other physiological response that is actually relevant to muscle recovery.

What is the Real Benefit of Recovery Runs?

In short, recovery runs do not enhance recovery. Nevertheless, recovery runs are almost universally practiced by top runners. That wouldn't be the case if this type of workout weren't beneficial. So what is the real benefit of recovery runs? The real benefit of recovery runs is that they increase your fitness--perhaps almost as much as longer, faster runs do--by challenging you to run in a pre-fatigued state (i.e. a state of lingering fatigue from previous training.)

There is evidence that fitness adaptations occur not so much in proportion to how much time you spend exercising but rather in proportion to how much time you spend exercising beyond the point of initial fatigue in workouts. So-called key workouts (runs that are challenging in their pace or duration) boost fitness by taking your body well beyond the point of initial fatigue.

Click here to find out more!
Recovery workouts, on the other hand, are performedentirely in a fatigued state, and therefore also boost fitness despite being shorter and/or slower than key workouts.

Evidence of the special benefit of pre-fatigued exercise comes from an interesting study out of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. In this study, subjects exercised one leg once daily and the other leg twice every other day. The total amount of training was equal for both legs, but the leg that was trained twice every other day was forced to train in a pre-fatigued state in the afternoon (recovery) workouts, which occurred just hours after the morning workouts.

After several weeks of training in this split manner, the subjects engaged in an endurance test with both legs. The researchers found that the leg trained twice every other day increased its endurance 90 percent more than the other leg.

Creating a Setback to Get Ahead

Additional research has shown that when athletes begin a workout with energy-depleted muscle fibers and lingering muscle damage from previous training, the brain alters the muscle recruitment patterns used to produce movement. Essentially, the brain tries to avoid using the worn-out muscle fibers and instead involves fresher muscle fibers that are less worn out precisely because they are less preferred under normal conditions.

When your brain is forced out of its normal muscle recruitment patterns in this manner, it finds neuromuscular "shortcuts" that enable you to run more efficiently (using less energy at any given speed) in the future. Pre-fatigued running is sort of like a flash flood that forces you to alter your normal morning commute route. The detour seems a setback at first, but in searching for an alternative way to reach the office, you might find a faster way--or at least a way that's faster under conditions that negatively affect your normal route.

Tips for Effective Use of Recovery Runs

  • Whenever you run again within 24 hours of completing a key workout (or any run that has left you severely fatigued or exhausted), the follow-up run should usually be a recovery run.

  • Recovery runs are only necessary if you run four times a week or more.

    • If you run just three times per week, each run should be a "key workout" followed by a day off.

    • If you run four times a week, your first three runs should be key workouts and your fourth run only needs to be a recovery run if it is done the day after a key workout instead of the day after a rest day.

    • If you run five times a week, at least one run should be a recovery run.

    • If you run six or more times a week, at least two runs should be recovery runs.

  • There's seldom a need to insert two easy runs between hard runs, and it's seldom advisable to do two consecutive hard runs within 24 hours.

  • Recovery runs are largely unnecessary during base training, when most of your workouts are moderate in both intensity and duration. When you begin doing formal high-intensity workouts and exhaustive long runs, it's time to begin doing recovery runs in roughly a 1:1 ratio with these key workouts.

  • There are no absolute rules governing the appropriate duration and pace of recovery runs.

    • A recovery run can be as long and fast as you want, provided it does not affect your performance in your next scheduled key workout.

    • In most cases, however, recovery runs cannot be particularly long or fast without sabotaging recovery from the previous key workout or sabotaging performance in your next one.

    • A little experimentation is needed to find the recovery run formula that works best for each individual runner.

  • Don't be too proud to run very slowly in your recovery runs, as Kenya's runners are famous for doing. Even very slow running counts as pre-fatigued running practice that will yield improvements in your running economy, and running very slowly allows you to run longer without sabotaging your next key workout.

Active Expert Matt Fitzgerald is the author of several books on triathlon and running, including Runner's World Performance Nutrition for Runners (Rodale, 2005).

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