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

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

How Many Pairs?

When I worked at Marathon Sports, I was surprised how many customers came in to replace their one pair of shoes. Often the old ones were way beyond worn. Maybe I’m spoiled, a collector, or both, but I feel my closet is empty without a choice of running shoes. At the store, I didn’t want to come across as hard sell – out to boost sales. But my motivation was sincere. So I tried various ways to broach the topic. Sometimes successfully, more often not. So, how many pairs is enough? As with most things, it depends. Do you just run on roads, just trails, or both? How many days a week do you run? How far? Do you race a lot and/or do regular speed workouts? Are you a bigger or smaller person? Is your gait light to the ground or do you tend to strike hard? You want an answer, not more questions. OK! Simplistically, for most runners I suggest three pairs. Your main pair is your regular trainer. Something with a basic amount of cushion, such as a Brooks Ghost or Adidas Energy Boost for neutral runners or an Asics 2000 or Saucony Guide for those needing … Continue reading

It’s the Hips!

Last weekend I attended a training school put on by USA Track & Field. Officially it’s called Track & Field Coaching Essentials Level 1. It was 22 hours of lecture and demonstration of track and field events, A to Z, from a coaching perspective. Sixty-five people from around New England and upstate New York trekked to the Innovation Academy in Tynsborough for this crash course.   At least 55 raised their hands when asked if they were currently coaching high school or college. These were folks doing it! I met just two other people who like myself were coaching post-collegiate adults, though both had previously spent time coaching younger athletes. I was quite sure a good portion of the material wasn’t going to interest me. In high school I didn’t pay much attention to what those big guys were doing in the middle of the track during meets. And when I did, it was to make sure that there wasn’t a wayward implement coming my way! The first 8 hours or so was in the classroom covering general training theory and endurance events. Good stuff! Then we moved on to sprints and hurdles before going into the jumps (the long, triple, … Continue reading