When Yes, When No!

Today would have been the Stowe 8 Miler.  A marque race attracting many hundreds of people.  It went virtual this year due to Covid-19.  But a few GMAA folks decided to do it as a time trial.  I said I was in.  My week revolved around getting ready for an 8 mile time trial.  Then on Saturday two things happened.  One, the weather turn rainy and very humid.  Two, I felt as washed out as I had in many weeks.  Thinking about leaving at 6:30 a.m. and then 45 minutes to Stowe to run in the rain and another 45 back just didn’t excite me.  I went to bed leaving the decision to morning, but was pretty sure I’d do an easy run around here.  Which is what I ended up doing. During this time of Covid, we want to keep pushing, set challenges for ourselves and then meet them.  It helps having goals and things to look forward to.  But with our running, it’s also important to put things in context and focus on the long view.  If our body (and mind!) are screaming “No” and we push on anyhow, there is a chance, maybe a good chance, we … Continue reading

Proof in the Plodding

Since starting my blog in 2015, I’ve harped on the importance of regular weightlifting and alternative aerobic exercise, which for me has been deep water running and StairMaster.  I call these running equivalents, or REQs.  Along with generally running four and sometimes five days a week, the weights and REQs have seemed a good balance to keep in reasonable racing shape and though slowing with age, feeling spry enough. Then along came COVID-19, shutting down every gym and pool for the foreseeable future.  As luck would have it, the day things closed down I tweaked a hamstring.  Not badly, but enough to affect my stride and really slow me down.  It’s been three weeks and I still feel stiff as a board the first couple of miles running, never really loosing up.  The fix for something like this the past years has been hitting the pool, StairMaster and a variety of leg weights and stretches to allow the hamstring, calf, quad, or whatever is troubled to settle.  So why are weights and REQs so effective?  One, they allow for a full range of motion, lubricate the joints, and get the blood flowing to the injured parts.  Two, they stretch the … Continue reading

Looking Back

It’s now January 2nd and I closed out my 2019 training log.  This may seem over-the-top to many, but I keep a daily log of all my training, I then total things up each month and compile it for the year.  I have over 25 years of these logs.  What I track has evolved but over the past 15 years I’ve consistently logged running miles and running equivalents (mostly water running and StairMaster) and whether I’ve lifted weights or done form drills.  At the end of the month I total all this up along with number of races run, total racing distance, and average weight based upon 10-12 weigh-ins per month.  It’s an Excel spreadsheet that both records past activity and projects to the end of the year.  Excel calculates the average and median for all the categories for the prior three and 15 years and I compare that to the current year.   It’s really not that much work to keep this up and it’s great for looking back.   It’s also functions as a roadmap — I plan for the upcoming year by month and update it based on actual monthly totals.  As much time as I spend working … Continue reading

Expect the Unexpected!

Competitive runners are planners.  We have our training schedules and race calendars and organize busy days and weeks around running.  Some plan a week ahead; some months or even a year out.  And there’s a huge range in terms of depth and detail in that planning.  I have seen planning logs by day for an entire month (mine included!), weekly targets for mileage and quality, and more basic monthly and bi-monthly goals.   Why do we do this? Presumably it’s because we value the payback: feeling good when we run and the ability to race well.  We prioritize our travel to accommodate races. Bottom line, running is part of our psyche and social fabric.  So, we make space for it and all that entails. But what happens when those plans go awry?  Sometimes for small things; other times big things.  With injury, we might at first be mired in disappointment, and perhaps that is a necessary form of grieving about missing a key race or races.  But eventually it’s important to reset the table and create new plans. My latest bout with this happened recently when a mile into a 5K race, I felt a sudden pull in my left … Continue reading

Gait Keeping!

Webster’s defines a gatekeeper as “one who controls access.”  And in a sense, this is what our gait does.  Regardless of whether we are running or walking it determines how we move through our day.  Several things come to mind when looking at gait: To walk or run we engage the entirety of our lower kinetic chain, from the hips to our tippy-toes. The muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints in that chain are intricately designed to do certain things and if those elements are not functioning properly, our gait is compromised. Gait deteriorates with age.  However, vigilance can allow us to forestall many common effects and even partially reverse some of what may have taken hold.  First, let’s underscore the importance of gait.  A. E. Patla, a reknown researcher in gait, notes “nothing epitomizes a level of independence and our perception of a good quality of life more than the ability to travel independently under our own power from one place to another.” Aside from our ability to think, being mobile is arguably the most joyful thing we do.  It’s a rare person who has not been laid up for a time.  We go stir crazy!  And can’t wait to … Continue reading

Water Works!

Growing up I liked playing Monopoly. Most everyone wanted to buy Boardwalk, Park Place and the expensive properties hoping to put houses and a hotel on them. And collect big $ when someone landed on them. But I also liked Water Works, one of the utilities. The payback was decent – averaging about $28 and up to $48 rent (based on a roll of the dice) on a $150 investment. Chances were in the course of a couple of trips around the board someone would land there. Nothing fancy, but a dependable return. And that is what deep water running offers to runners. I was reminded of this twice in the past two weeks. The first time I had gone for a fairly hard run in the cold rain.  Came back to the gym, warmed up and thoroughly stretched, planning on a hard track workout the next day.  But that night I didn’t sleep well and woke up with some back pain.  It seemed wise to delay the track workout a day.  So I headed to the gym and since the pool schedule didn’t allow for a water run, I jumped on the StairMaster.  If anything, that made things worse … Continue reading

Smart Recovery

I wrote a blog post in 2015 entitled the Art of Recovery.  The gist of that post was to run slow, really slow, a couple days a week and particularly after a race.  Well enough, but there’s a whole lot more to consider.  Also, that post was not specifically geared to masters runners whereas this one is.  I’m drawing some points made by Peter Reaburn in his comprehensive book, The Masters Athlete. The main purpose of recovery is to avoid injury.  As masters runners, we are particularly vulnerable to injury after races and an extremely intense workout or series of workouts.  For a 5K, the recovery period is three to five days, for a half marathon a couple weeks, and several weeks for a marathon.  Research suggests one day of recovery for every mile raced.  However, this assumes the following: We went into the race sufficiently trained and rested.  If we trained long and hard up until the day or two before the race, then we likely had muscle and tissue damage lingering, which the race added to.  This means more than the standard time to fully recover. Our fundamental biomechanics are sound.  If we excessively pronate, for example, and … Continue reading

Inside Out

Perhaps you’ve seen the Pixar film with this title.  It was about how our emotions (the inside) affect our lives (the out.)  I’m sure the creators of the film would see that as too simplistic!  But perhaps there is a corollary to running. It’s the time of year when it can get really cold in Vermont, especially when windy.  I moved to Boston in 2005 in part to bask in the 10° warmer high and low average temps compared to Burlington.  And now I’m back in the colder clime!  When you consider that between December 21st and February 18th the daily average high temp in Burlington is below freezing, it’s not surprising there are many days between snow melts.  While streets are plowed (and increasingly the bike paths!) this can lead to treacherous conditions for runners.  I know too many who have strained muscles or broken bones by taking a hard fall.  While many “true Vermonters” run outside year round, consider the treadmill an anathema, and perhaps strap on skis in lieu of running, I regularly ran on the treadmill during the 16 winters I lived here before.  And with sub-zero temps recently, have started to do that again. Seven … Continue reading

90 Minutes a Day!

As I move through the fall term at UVM, I’ve crossed paths with various people in the research and academic world. There is a ton of research being done in the applied sciences, much of it related to chronic conditions and disease mitigation. This is where the money is! Understandably, the NIH is not going to prioritize funding for developing interventions to maximize athletic performance into the golden years. This funding will likely come from private sources, supporting entrepreneurial researchers and practitioners looking for answers and strategies. After a conversation last week with a professor about why he has chosen to research chronic conditions, I thought about why I am interested in interventions to preserve and extend athletic performance. And it hit me straight on: I see athletics as a true celebration of life! Certainly as much as good music, art, literature, or academic achievement. Those of us fortunate to have retained our fundamental capacities have a choice to pursue athletics at a high level or dabble at physical activity here and there and lament our declining abilities. I then thought about what it takes to retain this prowess and decided in simplistic terms it takes 90 minutes a day, … Continue reading

Keeping Track

Runners often have what might be called a love-hate relationship with the track. Many of us had our first taste of running there – anyone who ran in high school certainly did their share of track intervals. As the years have passed, I’ve continued to see the track as something of a haven – a place that feels like “home,” predictable and safe, regardless of where it is and whether it’s indoors or outside. And while doing a track workout this week, I started a mental list of why I feel that way: The track cuts no slack. It provides honest feedback. You know after a workout what your fitness level is. Such feedback is constant. Whether it’s a 400M, 200M, or 10th of a mile track, you calibrate with each lap – a good nudge if the pace is falling off! Workouts are easily scaled for speed or distance. In fact, it’s best to mix it up week-to-week or even within a workout. In that vein, it’s a natural place to change speeds, which is good for varying muscle recruitment and exerting a different type of fatigue on muscles. Running the same speed for all workouts invites overuse injuries, … Continue reading