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Run for Love

 

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One of my favorite new songs is attached below, “When Love Broke Thru.”  I think I like it so much because it reminds me that if I can act out of love, many things can be overcome.  But if acting out of ignorance, anger, or misunderstanding, many times, those situations only get worse.

Something I love so much about running is that it strips us down to our most simple desires.  I’ve often found myself running with others whom I’d rarely call to hang out with.  However, finding persons to run with at a certain pace for ridiculous distances on cold, dark mornings isn’t the easiest task to accomplish.  Therefore, I’ve had many runs in many different states across the US, over many years, with persons whom I may not be in accordance with concerning political or religious views, their so-called way-of-life, or even their views on morality.  But over and over again I’ve found that running miles of trials with another human being helps us find common ground in a way that few other things can.

Running isn’t easy.  You don’t take time to run, you make time to run.  That means earlier out of bed or later to bed.  It’s a grind.  That sick feeling you get when you wake up early in the dead of winter in the dark… Simple desires.  Run alone or run with someone who helps you feel supported in your endeavors as you support theirs?   Run alone or together?

Psychology Today says, “Love is a desire, not emotional need.”  Finding ourselves in the midst of all kinds of different persons willing to help us strive for our desire to be better, get stronger, hang on a little farther is breathtaking.  It’s unreal when everyone is happy to see you happy.  That’s how runners are.

Adding love to that desire could be life-changing, not just for us, but for all of those around us.  You see, if we’re willing to love across views and opinions because we’ve learned to desire good for those we run with, then we can learn to use love to desire good for others we don’t run with.  Running is my stress relief, my compass, my reset, and my life’s desire.  Not because I ultimately desire to be faster, but because I ultimately desire to be better.  Better for my wife, my kids, my community, and my running mates.  Love on you all,

20%, 2%

Which is greater?!  I know, it looks like a simple question but it’s not.  My college coach always said, “It’s better to be 20% under-trained than 2% over-trained.  Seems like you’d be leaving a lot on the table if you always showed up at your race 20% under-trained.  However, the alternative isn’t ever a good place to be.

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Coach’s point was that anytime we get over-trained, bad things happen…  we get sick, injured, chronically fatigued or a combination of more than one of these.  When this happens, we then need extended periods of time off to heal up and recover creating a lapse in training that puts us in a place of decreased fitness, the one place we were trying to stay away from.

Training gains are made not from stressing the system alone but by recovering from the stressors.  Your fitness progresses when you can allow adaptations to happen and those can only happen with both stress and recovery.  Over-train and you no longer have the chance to allow adaptation.

Winter time is a great time to work on this principle.  As the training and racing seasons slow down for many of us, it can be a chance to build slowly, enjoy making small changes, and learn to program recovery into the schedule.  Finding patience in the quiet months of winter can help you enjoy a myriad of breakthroughs during the racing season.

Chances are, when we picture ourselves being 20% under-trained, we see ourselves taking a day off here and there or maybe even doing a little more work in our base phase and less in our intervals or thresholds.  Hence, 20% under-trained is closer to perfection than we might think.  Allowing ourselves enough recovery to adapt can put us in a place where we feel good on race day.  And that’s way better than never making it to the start line in the first place!

“No, I like to Party…”

We like to try to offer a little motivation in our blog posts and today is no different.  However, instead of us motivating you, it’s those we try to motivate hopefully motivating others.  Below is a short video from an incredible night of fun competition and community.  Throughout this past year of elections and debate, the media has seemed to increasingly portray us as opposing, ego-centric, agenda-focused dividends without any remaining sense of humanity.

Well, here’s to being a runner, knowing a runner, and hoping to be more like a runner.  Inclusive, encouraging, motivating, and happy.  It’s almost like a high-school keg’r when there were all different types of classmates at one place having a good time together.  “F” you media, we runners like to party!  All kinds of us!

Seeing is Believing–Visualization

 

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In one our more recent posts, we talked about fighting complacency and goal setting.  As I was dragging myself through an early morning run in the dark cold of winter the other day, I was reminded of something I’ve learned through the years.  Most gains are made after you recover from the efforts.  When visualizing yourself succeeding or when trying to see yourself achieving something, I believe it’s just as important to be recovered.

Trying to visualize positive vibes while feeling like a clunky piece of dog crap is about as effective as trying to make ice cream in August in Iowa.  In order to set yourself up for success, try to visualize when you feel good.  Whether that be during a run when you feel fantastic or during a relaxing afternoon nap, being able to see yourself in a positive light is greatly affected by first feeling good in the present.

Why do we think children have such a fervor for life and adventure?!  I wonder if it isn’t because they get more rest and have way less stress than their adult counterparts.  Our coach in college would start and end visualization sessions with the following…  “If you can see it, you can believe it.  If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”  I spent many a thirty minute nap in the dark basement of a Colorado Springs rental house, laying on a futon and listening to a mixed tape in my headphones as I watched and re-watched myself qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials.  On the days when my long run was clicking, I’d listen to the same mixed tape for 24 miles in the mountains while seeing the same pictures.

I still visualize.  But I pick the days I feel good.  And on the days that seem like more of a struggle, I look forward to the next day when I’ll feel better because that’s when I’ll visualize the self I see achieving the goals that still lie ahead.

Methods Monday, Fight Complacency

They say that completion is the enemy of progress.  That means that the, “off-season,” can be filled with plenty of enemy fire.  You’ve just finished your first marathon or triathlon.  You quit smoking and started working out this Summer.  All of these are good things, but good things can quickly become the past.  Or they can help motivate you to morph these successes into ongoing progress.

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Sure, it’s good to sit back and look at our successes from time to time, but I’m not sure it should become the standard.  From the time I finished my Freshman year of college in 1993 until 2015, I had zero injuries that kept me from endurance training.  In the last two years I’ve been injured twice!  What gives?  Complacent? Me?!  No way… but was I?

Injuries happen and most of us, and if we do this endurance lifestyle long enough, will probably have some injuries to tackle.  However, as I look back, yes, I was progressing my running, but I was simply throwing more logs in the fire.  More mileage, more double days, more lifting of more weight etc.  But I wasn’t learning how to adapt and adjust to these stressors at the young age of 40 or 42 w/ a busy work schedule, two young kids, and the stress that comes with life in general.  What I’m learning is that if I want to continue to strive for progress, I may need to add new tricks to the tool bag.  Instead of just lifting weights, I need to focus on strengthening my core and range of motion to withstand the miles of training.  Instead of just doing more, I need to do more wisely, which I had been, but I wasn’t wisely trying to learn new tricks.

I just read a research paper on stretching that would seem to indicate quite intelligently, that static stretching for endurance athletes may not be advantageous at all, either before or after.  Now I’m not going to stop stretching post-workout all together, (I know that’s what you’re thinking, you wish) but I am going to research the area to see if there’s something more advantageous to injury prevention and performance enhancement.  What about nutrition, fueling, motivation?

All this is to say, are you thinking about progressing this off-season?  Or are you doing the same things you always do.  Taking the Winter off, hibernating, following the same plan you have for the last four year…  Progress is another word for advance.  To advance is to move forward.

Think about your goals for 2017.  Think about your goals for your life!  Are you hoping to progress or just maintain?  If maintaining sounds pretty good, proceed with caution as maintaining while aging is still a fight.  Finding ways to maintain probably means you’ll have to progress.  And progressing means that you’re never done.  Good thing you like to fight!

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Methods Monday, Winter Training Tips

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As we all set in for the long haul of Winter, I feel like I’m torn between the old approach of my younger years when I would simply raise the fist to the cold and go outside anyway.  A stiff chin, no headlamp in the dark, and an old cotton glove carefully placed in the mid-front, and I was on my way through hills and snow.  And the desire to find new ways to keep things interesting and fun without having to wrestle with the cold, icy conditions day in and day out.  I think there’s a happy medium in there where we can find both fun and fitness.  So here are some ideas and some tips…

Winter Gear-  You don’t have to spend a fortune, at least not all at once, to get enough gear to get you through a winter of training.  Finding a jacket that has wind block paneling and some thermal properties to it is probably the one real piece of equipment that’s worth the purchase price.  Using layers of clothing and being sure to keep most of your skin covered from exposure and you may not look the part of an olympian in training, with mismatched colors and styles, but you’ll be warm and safe even in the coldest conditions.  Layering with old race shirts, a pair of tights under some sweat pants and using some thick snow mittens are all acceptable practices to allow you bragging rights with your run mates concerning wind chill and runs completed.

Snowshoeing- an incredible workout that can be done anywhere there’s enough snow.  Getting into the woods to do so is not just a breath-taking step into a winter wonderland, but the trees can help block the wind-chill, while your effort level with snowshoes on your feet, is guaranteed to keep your heart rate up and your body warm.  Regular running shoes work just fine for snowshoeing unless you tend to get cold feet.  Then, try a wool sock blend or think about trying a gore-tex type run shoe.

Skiing and Fat Biking- let’s not pretend that the only way to stay fit is by doing sports that involve strictly running.  Cross-country skiing and Fat Biking are great ways to get into the woods and work up a good sweat while still getting fresh air and some sunshine.

Indoor Training- from group fitness classes to indoor tracks, there is a plethora of options for staying fit without getting frostbite.  Fitness Classes, weight training, spin class, lap swimming, water aerobics, treadmills, ellipticals, mall walking, and indoor tracks are some of the common ways to keep the fitness fire burning throughout the winter.  A couple tips while enjoying these indoor means…

*Running on a treadmill w/out any incline can give a false sense of fitness as the movement of the belt may decrease true effort of the runner.  Adding a 1 to 1.5 % incline on so-called, “Flat” treadmill runs will help you re-acclimate to outdoor running when the snow melts.

*Inside/Outside- Anytime that you spend a majority of your training time inside on a machine like a treadmill or elliptical trainer, the impact is decreased compared to running outside on streets or paved trails.  When you begin to go back outside, please consider the 25% rule.  Go back outside for only 25% of your runs for two weeks at a time before adding more outside workouts.  If you run inside 4 days a week, add just 1 run outside and do 3 inside for two weeks.  Then, do 2 outside and 2 inside for two weeks and so on…

*Mall walking or working out in similar conditions means the ground is actually quite hard and unforgiving.  Be careful if you spend more time on hard surfaces like cement floors as you’ll want to acclimate slowly to the pounding to avoid injury and/or over-use issues.

*Indoor Tracks- Most indoor tracks involve tight continuous turning over the course of a distance run.  Most tracks are no less than 8 laps a mile and most are actually more.  Running tight circles for more than 30 min. at a time can really increase your risk of injury.  Tight IT Bands, added pressure on knees, and arch pain are all commonly known concerns from running too much on indoor tracks.  Consider alternating direction.  (Most facilities actually alternate days for direction which makes this impossible.)
And consider not doing more than 30 min. a day on a tight, indoor track.
I firmly believe that treadmills are much more forgiving for most people than running multiple loops on an indoor track.

There’s no “one way” to get and stay fit throughout an “off-season” cycle.  Even taking a season without any running at all wouldn’t be a horrible thing if you can continue to workout and stay healthy and active by enjoying the options you choose.  If you plan to focus on running during your “in-season” then doing at least 50% of your training volume within your sport focus is probably a good rule of thumb.  Whatever you choose to do, we hope that you continue to look far enough into the future to ensure that you find fuel to fan the flames of your health and fitness desires year-round.

Happy Winter!

Which Would You Prefer?

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I ran with a couple friends on my morning run today.  One of them, Cesar,  has a grandfather in Mexico who just ran a 51 min. 10K.  He’s 76 years old!!!  That’s like an 8:20 per/mile pace!  So I text Cesar today and started a line of questions, Does your grandfather strength train?  Does he use a GPS watch?  Does he do interval workouts?

It’s always very interesting to me to see those who continue to, or begin to make fitness gains later in life.  It makes me wonder what’s more important… is it the training plan, the consistency, the gear, the equipment???  So we’ll wait on Cesar to answer my long line of questions before we make any true assessments or assumptions here but until then…

Let’s think about this,
Would you rather garner impressive, over-all PRs during your racing career, OR, would you rather find an extended career of endurance and fitness regardless of PRs, OR, BOTH?!

In April of 2015, The Atlantic ran an article on “Running into Old Age,” that stated,

“Research has shown that exercise can help maintain physical fitness that may otherwise be lost over time. “A lot of the deterioration we see with aging can be attributed to a more sedentary lifestyle instead of aging itself,” a 2014 review article on aging and exercise, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, concludes. “The prevalence of age-related chronic diseases and physical dysfunction is substantially reduced or even absent in older adults who continue to train and compete in athletic competitions.”

“Aging merely lowers the ceiling of physical ability,” Tanaka says. “Older adults, even those over 90 years of age, respond well to exercise training and regain much of what they lost with aging.”

Walking for a Better Brain

But the authors of the 2014 study emphasize that athletic feats like marathons aren’t the only way to enjoy the benefits of exercise in old age. According to their data, any regular vigorous exercise may reduce the decline in aerobic capacity—the ability of the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to muscles, a main component in overall age-related physical decline—by as much as 50 percent.”

So, what’s the plan Stan?!  How are you planning to spend your years ahead?  Were you simply planning to hang your hat on the escapades of yesteryear, as you struggle to stand up out of that soft sofa you watch t.v. from?  Or were you planning to resist aging by realizing that hanging your hat just shouldn’t happen?!

The One Thing…

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Wouldn’t it be awesome…  

After spending the last few weeks talking about heart rate training and how beneficial it can be in your training plan, I wanted to go back to basics for a minute.
Survival—  Did you know?… You can go 30 days without food.  You can go 7 days without water!  But, you can only go 2 days without sleep!!!  After 48 hours your body will actually begin to have episodes where it shuts down for short periods of time to try to get sleep and repair.  Going on from there without sleep is a high-risk, life-threatening experience.
As part of a modern society, many of us have grown to accept a general lack of sleep.  However, data seems to suggest, sleep may be one of the most important ingredients in anyones health plan.  When’s the last time you woke up from a slumber looking like the child in the picture above?  Just a friendly reminder here…  Sleep is the key component to rebuilding after stressing the system or tearing down the muscle.  Whether it’s a long, hard run, interval repeats, or an intense weight session, a proper amount of sleep afterwards, helps your body recover, rebuild, and return in better shape than before.

Nap time anyone?!

Methods Monday, Training and Racing w/ Heart Rate

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Our 3rd and final post on heart rate training finds us having given you a ton of information in a short amount of time.  Please, if you are truly looking to get into HR training, shoot me an email @ scott.runnersflat@gmail.com or find us on FB or Twitter and we’re more than willing to help you find zones that will hopefully be accurate enough to use efficiently for you to progress and develop your training and racing.

Once you’ve established a range for your Zone 2, Endurance training, you’ll want to also find the other HR zones for Marathon Paced runs, Thresholds, Anaerobic Repeats and so on.  Zone 3, Marathon Pace HR zones seem to allow a larger range than the upper register of your zones for Thresholds and Anaerobic efforts.  Probably due to the long, slow drain of such a long effort.  One way to find your Zone 4 HR zone would be to run a 20 to 40 min. race effort and get your avg. hr for that effort.  Using a race of this duration is the best way to establish these numbers as an effort by yourself, while feeling taxed out, usually isn’t quite as hard as your effort when in a racing atmosphere.  Establishing a HR range 2 to 4 bpm above and below this avg. hr will hopefully give you a pretty accurate zone 4.  Once you have Zone 4, you can fill in the gap from Z2 to Z4 and establish that as your Zone 3!!!

Now all you have to do is figure out how to use all of this data!  😉  Don’t worry, we’ll help you.  As with the HR Zones, we’ll give you some thoughts on using these for different effort durations.  Again, these are not Laboratory Prescribed HR Zones or Guidelines.  Play with the numbers, track your data, and fine tune these as you find consistent data to back up your decisions throughout.

Here is the graph data from my recent 50 Mile Run with HR and Pace.  Around mile 30 I began to have some pretty good cramps that stayed with me throughout the rest of the race so the pace was slowed as much by cramps as by effort.  The goal for any effort would be to hold that HR steady or allow it to come up slowly.  If it’s too high in the beginning, then it will end up too low in the end, meaning you burn out and finish going much slower than maybe you could have.

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If this had been a 5K or 1/2 Marathon, my HR would have been in the 170s to 180s.  Because it was a 50 miler, I knew that starting out with that high of a HR would have meant suicide on the day.  This meant that the first 20 miles seemed easy and smooth like a long run, not a race.  It also meant that as the race went on, I was able to keep my effort higher for a longer amount of time.  Running 5 miles super fast and then 45 miles super slow has a negative value.  Running a steady Zone 2 and Zone 3 HR allowed me to stay relatively consistent and finish w/ a positive value in my book.

GUIDELINES:

Training Runs, Base Runs, Endurance Runs, Long Runs- Zone 2 HR AVG

Efforts and Races up to 30 or 40 min.- Zone 4 and 5 HR AVG

Efforts and Races from 1 to 2 or 3 hours- Zone 3 and 4 HR AVG

Efforts and Races from 3 to 6 or 8 hours- Zone 2 and 3 HR AVG

Efforts and Races from 8 hours and beyond- Zones 1 and 2 HR AVG

*These are places to start your own process of testing and finding the HR values that seem to help you last the longest amount of time running the most efficiently.  Try them in training workouts and races and establish a system that you feel gives you the best chance to run your best race!

Good luck to you all as you work to be the best you you can be!

 

 

Methods Monday, Using Heart Rate Zones for Training

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Establishing accurate heart rate zones can take a while if you’re not able to get tested in an actual laboratory.  The more runs you can track at your suggested Endurance Pace the better.  Last week, we dove into calculating those zones.  Follow the rules in the previous post as far as using a controlled environment and effort level to find those “Zone 2” numbers.

What you’re trying to find is a “Zone” for your Heart Rate numbers that is consistent with your normal  training pace.  Ie.- When you run at your endurance pace effort, your Heart Rate is usually between what two numbers…?  If I track data for an athlete and we find that we have numbers ranging from 138 to 143, we might establish a standard zone range from 135 to 145.  Then, we’ll say that when they do their normal base building runs, and their long runs, we want them to keep their HR between 135 and 145.  Often, that means that the 1st half of the run will be faster than the 2nd half.  We’re not training to slow down, but merely trying to keep the HR in the zone we know as Zone 2 or Endurance Zone.  Why?!

We do this because we know that training in Zone 2 for the majority of your training time allows you to build better cardio.  It increases your capillary beds in your lungs allowing you to intake more oxygen and flush out greater amounts of lactic acid (fatigue).  If you run at an effort less than this, you’re essentially in active recovery.  It’s good for one super easy day a week to keep working on proper form and efficiency, or for a warm up or warm down for a race or workout, but other than that, running too easy doesn’t burn as much fat, doesn’t increase your body’s ability to uptake more oxygen as well, and it simply doesn’t get you in better shape.

Running at higher effort levels can be either beneficial or detrimental depending on how much higher you get.  There are times for almost every effort level but training just above your Endurance Zone 2 and just below your Zone 3 ends up making your more tired than needed without any increased fitness benefits.  We’ll delve in deeper next week on how to find your other zones and how to train and race using the proper zones.  Until then, get in a hard race or time trial, or use a recent race performance and start tracking your HR on Base Runs at proper pacing and conditions.  Soon enough, you’ll be using Heart Rate to get fitter and faster!

 

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