Play On!

Play On by Jeff Bercovici, just released, is a great read about how older professional athletes in various sports are flattening, and even bending up the aging curve. It’s loaded with insights about things master’s runners care about. Bercovici starts with an account of how Meb Keflezighi won the 2014 Boston Marathon, which is particularly relevant since it also speaks to the bizarre conditions of the 2018 race.   In 2014, Meb was a clear underdog against one of the strongest fields ever assembled for Boston. He wanted to run a steady pace, which resulted in him taking the lead after nine miles as others were taking stock of each other and thinking Meb would come back to them. He extended his lead to over a minute in the Newton Hills. When at mile 22 it became clear Meb was for real, two Kenyan runners, Wilson Chebet and Frankline Chepkwony, went on a tear to catch him, cutting their pace by 20 seconds a mile. The margin evaporated to six seconds at mile 25 and it looked like Meb was toast. But it turned out the chasers had gone into anaerobic debt to catch him while Meb was still within his … Continue reading

Age-Adjusted Training Plans

Most training plans suggest an incremental buildup in mileage and intensity as you close in on your target race. This is particularly important for a longer distance, such as a half or full marathon. These training plans generally assume an average recovery period, incorporating a hard-easy regimen of workouts. Also good! The problem with standard training plans is runners come in all shapes and sizes with varying running and fitness backgrounds, as well as having unique injury and other physical issues to address, not to mention the ebb and flow of daily living. Bottom line, the proposed schedule for a particular runner may not neatly fit the timeline prescribed for a target race. Also, and this is the topic of this post, runners are different ages. Everything above pertains to master runners. In addition, there are cumulative effects of aging to factor in. Let’s look at that. First we should define what age we’re talking about. Research shows that after age 30 measurable declines are seen in VO2max, muscle strength and quality, and what Tim Nokes in Lore of Running calls the “capacity to absorb landing forces” due to wear and tear on tendons and joints. According to Nokes, a … Continue reading

Preparing to Run!

Last June, I posted a piece entitled Why We Run!  I rewrote it for the purpose of posting on the Run Vermont website, but it was deemed too much like the original post.  But I prefer the rewrite though it includes some of the same thoughts and basic organization. So here’s the rewrite, which I’ve entitled Preparing to Run. Preparing to run a marathon is a BIG commitment. If we do it right, it takes time, focus, energy, and understanding from those around us. However, training for a marathon, or any race really, might give us pause to consider why we run, period. Over the years, various reasons have regularly surfaced for me. You may have encountered these too: We Choose to Participate We Challenge Ourselves We Make Friends Good Health Reasons Beyond Ourselves  PARTICIPATION Running is a choice we make. But we’re not alone! Running USA’s 2015 survey indicated there were 17 million road race finishers (not unique racers – one can count multiple times) up from just 4.7 million in 1990 – nearly a four-fold increase! Interestingly, 57% were women, up from 25% in 1990. Why this overall increase? Four key reasons are technologies that allow for net … Continue reading

Cells and Tissues

Imagine this: if each cell in our body was represented by a one-meter step, we would have to circle the earth over one million times to account for all our cells. It seems absurd, but it’s true.   We are each composed of between 50 and 100 trillion cells! As I continue to report on my study of Human Anatomy and Physiology by Elaine Marieb, I move from chemistry to structural components. Cell theory was developed in the late 1800s and is based on four core elements: The cell is the basic unit of living organisms, Organisms depend on both individual and combined activities of its cells, The activities of cells are dictated by their shape and number of structures they contain, and Cells arise from other cells. Restated, our 50+ trillion cells are the body’s building blocks, they don’t stand alone, they look different and do different things, and they’re self perpetuating. Cells have membranes that allow solutions to move in or out and have specialized organelles, such as mitochondria, which provide the energy for all we do. The nucleus is where our DNA (what makes us us!) lives and cell division happens, without which we would literally be one … Continue reading

The History of Exercise Physiology

I recently purchased Exercise Physiology by William McArdle. It is the text used for University of Vermont’s course on that topic. I opened the book expecting to jump right into nutrition, muscular movement, injury rehab, and cardiovascular and neural function. But it started with a 55-page history of the science of exercise physiology. It was fascinating! We may take for granted fundamental principles of training, such things as VO2 Max, hard-easy loading, nutritional balance, and benefits of strength work. And it seems like new developments in the field, or at least novel approaches, come along every couple years. Anything we have a question about has boundless info on the Web. We of course know it wasn’t always like that.   And I raptly read through this historical account. “Exercise” was first defined by Galen, who lived from 130 to 210 AD and treated both Roman gladiators and their rulers. Roman athletes who threw the javelin, discus, and ran fast were revered. He espoused the “laws of health” including fresh air, proper diet and drink, good hygiene, exercise, sleep, and emotional control. He considered exercise “vigorous movement” and was well aware of what we today call the “overload principle.”   There were numerous … Continue reading

The Chemistry of Life – and Running!

I recently retired from a career in finance and accounting and moved back to Vermont. I have been doing personal training and run coaching on a very part-time basis but now have the time to be a full-fledged exercise science professional. To facilitate this, I’m looking at a course in exercise physiology offered at UVM next semester. In case this proves a viable option, I am self-studying the prerequisite, Human Anatomy and Physiology by Elaine Marieb, a yearlong course covering the gamut of all that happens inside us. I figured this would be a cursory overview, which I could skim and be ready for class in January. Wrong! Right off the bat this book went into fascinating detail of how our bodies work. Fortunately, many of the terms were familiar — graduate studies in food science and nutrition years ago had not permanently eluded me. But the context is quite different. Before I was trying to memorize things without a use in mind. Now, I look at this from the perspective of running and coaching.   It’s like walking into a previously dark room now full of color and bright lights! Take for example the section on “Factors Influencing the Rate … Continue reading

It’s the Hips! – Part 2

My friend Linda, to whom I have offered coaching advice, told me the other day she was having hip pain, keeping her from running. She said her physical therapist evaluated it as weak glutes, which they are working to strengthen. This led to me rereading my August 11, 2015 blog post, It’s the Hips!, which offered no substantive advice on strengthening. So this post intends to do that. First point is to define the hips. And while this may be simplistic, from a runner’s perspective let’s consider the broad definition of hips as our core. John Davis in RunnerConnect defines “core” as all of the muscles of the lower trunk and pelvis: not just the abs and back, but also hip flexors, glutes, abductors, and adductors. He states further that these hip muscle groups are particularly important because they’re involved in a range of running injuries. When you look at the descriptions on the side of machines at the gym of what muscles are targeted, there’s often a range, with some primary, some secondary. That can be useful information but the real question is whether our overall strength training routine gets at the full range of core muscles. If we … Continue reading

To Race or Not To Race? That is the Question!

Is it a stretch to suggest this Shakespearian corollary applies to competitive runners? Most of us have at least some of our identity connected to this sport we love. Not seeing our friends at races and toeing the line attacks our sense of self.   George Sheehan probed this years ago in his first book Running and Being. However, to shift from the existential to the practical side of the question, we competitive runners find ourselves in this predicament, probably several times a year. We train to do well in peak races that have meaning for various reasons.   For me I look forward to doing well in the USATF-New England Grand Prix series and the BAA Distance Medley (5K, 10K, Half). I know the best runners will be at the Grand Prix races and I want my age-class competition to know I need to be reckoned with! At root, these rivalries are supportive and rewarding. Camaraderie develops because we have each made sacrifices over an extended time. And races are a celebration of that. The BAA races are all large (~10,000 runners) events drawing an international field and there’s a definite “buzz” being part of then. If you’ve followed my blog, … Continue reading

The 80/50 Principle

Richard Koch wrote a bestseller in 1999 entitled the 80/20 Principle. He refers to the Pareto Principle, which goes back to 1896 and cites numerous activities where 20% of inputs gives 80% of the result. Others have professed something akin to a 90/50 principle.   In comparison, a steep decline – 30% more effort for 10% return. Let’s look closer at 80%. What is special about that? If we think about various things we do, 80% is pretty good. Better than just getting by. A decent level of success.    I’ve been thinking about how this applies to running. I started with the question of “what is 80%?” I thought about a 10K race. Let’s consider a runner whose current “best,” (i.e., 100%) is 40:00. This is solid running – for a 50 year old man that’s a 75.1% age grade – or halfway between a national and regional class runner according to the WAVA (World Association of Veteran Athletes) tables. For a 50-year old woman this is 85.7%, more than halfway between national and world class.   In the 2017 BAA 10K, 40:00 would have placed in the top 2%. So 40:00 is a reasonable standard. Coincidentally, I consider 40:00 my current … Continue reading

Surprise #6 – Habits

Shoot from the glutes; lead with the hips; run tall! This post builds on posts on August 11, 2015 – It’s the Hips! and July 29, 2015 – Running Fast! This is the 6th post related to my February fall resulting in rib surgery to plate four of eight broken ribs. The last post on this was May 7 and a lot of water over the dam since then. By now, I had hoped to report a full recovery. The reset is now for mid-August. To recap, I took 12 weeks off from running.   I was hardly inactive during this time. After several weeks of walking, I worked back into StairMaster, deep-water running, and light weights.   I’ve now been running for 10 weeks, building up slowly in speed and distance beginning with weeks of 11, 14, 19, and 18 miles in May. In June the weeks were 24, 18, 24, and 26 miles.   The first two weeks in July have been 25 and 33 miles. Wise or not, I ran three races in June: two 10Ks and a 5 Miler. Not pretty, but these were target races and a test of my fitness. Previously I had bounced back rather quickly … Continue reading