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

RUNNING FAST!

I was talking with a customer at Marathon Sports the other day. He wanted to run faster and was looking for a pair of shoes to enable that. Not an unusual topic – who doesn’t want better race times! This conversation reminded me of three interrelated things that directly affect our speed: range of motion; turnover; and push-off. First, range of motion or ROM. Jack Daniels observed that 1984 Olympic women distance runners had a heel-to-heel stride length of 58” and men 74”. This is probably the top end for most of us – but for purposes here let’s assume an average stride length of 59 inches, or roughly 1.5 meters. For a 5K race, that is about 3,300 strides. If a runner’s full ROM is reduced by just 1”, in essence that means running an extra 90 yards. At a 7:00 minute pace this would add 22 seconds. So instead of 21:46 5K, it would take 22:08. For a 10K, double that difference to 44 seconds. And for a half marathon, 92 seconds or 1.5 minutes. Clearly, a price is paid for a constrained ROM. Second, turnover, or cadence as the cyclists call it, is another key part of … Continue reading

The Art of Recovery

Like many, for years I ran with the mindset that faster was better. If you want to race fast, you’ve got to train fast – an extension of the no pain, no gain philosophy. For me, that worked pretty well. Have never been a high mileage runner – more than 40 MPW on five days a week seemed to invite injury. But most of it was pretty fast paced – usually between just 45 and 60 seconds/mile slower than 10K race pace. I‘ve been racing for 38 years and thankfully spent very little time on the DL – until three years ago. For the first 35 years, I was out of action an average of about 2-3 weeks a year. I attributed this, in part, to taking the approach of not running through injuries. If something cropped up, I hit the pool and Stairmaster until things felt solid. And then it was immediately back to the fast-paced stuff. The two exceptions were a 3-month outage due to a torn piriformis (which I hadn’t even known existed!) and a two-month layoff due to patella tendonitis, for which 15 years later I still preventively tape. So along I went on my merry way. … Continue reading