The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of High Mileage Training

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

One of the bigger areas of debate among runners and coaches is the tradeoff between quantity of miles (or kilometers, of course) and quality of miles.  With the growth of the “run less, run better” and Crossfit approaches to training, there is a temptation to believe that you as a runner can perform your best by landing on the quality side of this argument in your training and cutting down your mileage to the “minimum necessary.” There are plenty of success stories claiming to prove that these approaches work.

It is, however, important to distinguish between what “can work” and what “works best”.  Yes, you can improve your race results with a low quantity / high quality approach, particularly if you are a newer runner (and don’t run with so much intensity that you get injured), or a runner who has been away for awhile but has a good aerobic and athletic base.  But these gains are going to be limited in scope and over time, as your returns on investment will begin to fade.

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Five Ways to Tune Up Your Tune-Up Race Strategy: Perfect 10 Case Study

Perfect 10 Race Start

One error many runners make is in the management of their tune-up races.  These training elements, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for providing physiological and psychological development, feedback on your progress, experience in managing pacing and other race-specific elements, and in dialing in your “A” race goal.  However, they can also quickly derail your training if overused or scheduled and executed improperly.

There are a couple of more common mistakes in the management of tune-up races that you should watch out for (and it’s an area I work closely with Team Predawn Runner members in planning and avoiding).

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From the Archives:
Zen and the ART of Hamstring Maintenance

Photo Credits: Above - Zen 2.0 by Flickr user Pittaya Sroilong, used under a used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.  Below – Batman by Flickr user edenpictures, used under a used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

When we last checked in on our hero, he was continuing to struggle with the effects of a strained hamstring, and his work with a physical therapist on both recovery approaches and new strengthening and flexibility exercises was delivering mixed short-term results.  Well, as heroes who have been stripped of their powers are wont to do, this one grew impatient with the slow progress and sought the sage consultation of another expert, this time in the form of the illustrious (and local) sports chiropractor, Dr. Tim Keyes.

Now, why a chiropractor, you might ask?  I asked the same question when my wife suggested it.  And therein lies the answer – my wife suggested it.  She was repeating the observation that the physical therapy assistant had made, which, in layman’s terms, basically boils down to “your hips are crooked.”  For her, in her general skepticism of all medical practices that are not traditional physician-based (which I share), to suggest such an idea was impressive in and of itself.  She had a colleague at work who’s significant other is a cyclist, and he in turn recommended Dr. Keyes based on the significant improvements he was able to make in treating problems in his knee (again, you may ask – why a back-cracker for knee issues?).

It turns out that Dr. Keyes is a practitioner of Active Release Techniques, or ART.  If you aren’t familiar with the basics, this is a patented approach that combines examination, motion, and massage using several of over 500 moves, to break down the scar tissue in your affected muscles, ligaments, or tendons and thus allow for faster healing through improved range of motion and the like.  All of which leads to the obvious question – how does one enforce a patent on massage techniques?

Or, I guess another question you might have is – how does it work?  Well, we got pretty much right into the meat of the issues right away, as there was very little in the way of discussion other than, basically, “where does it hurt?”  I did discuss the inputs from the physical therapist, and Dr. Keyes questioned the belief that road camber (or cant) had much to do with the issue, instead preferring the “it’s just one of those things” explanation.  Perhaps, in his view, the convergence of poor strengthening/flexibility practices, a lot of miles (not overtraining though, by his definition), and the lengthy flights to Portland and back combined to convert what was originally just a lot of scar tissue build-up into a full out muscle strain. We didn’t get into, or even examine, whether one leg was longer than the other, or anything of that sort.  He just dove in and began treatment.

Now, one thing I should point out about Dr. Keyes is that he is a triathlete, having completed an Ironman per year the past 4 years.  His entire office competed in either the Akron Marathon full- or half-marathon event last year as they were sponsors, and his marathon PR sounds to be close to my own. Thus, his definition of “over-training” may be a bit, well, liberal – but it suits me just fine.

I digress, back to the ART process, which largely consisted of a half-hour of focused massage on all portions of the left hamstring while either stretching or contracting it and commenting on observations.  He reported finding a vein of scar tissue down the length of the hamstring which he believed to be the source of the issue.  The massage itself wasn’t nearly as painful as the Graston technique work performed by the physical therapist, and left no lingering bruises.  His parting instructions on that first day were to get running, as that was the only way to measure progress and surface any issues that may come up while compensating for the hamstring problems, and to come back in less than 7 days before the scar tissue had a chance to close ranks and re-form.

This was a bit of a mind shift as I’d sold myself on taking two weeks of rest to help the hamstring heal, but I could understand (or maybe wanted to understand) his rationale.  So I proceeded cautiously over the course of the following weekend, starting that very night, to put in a couple of short runs, and the results were eons better than previous trial runs had been, with barely even a niggle in the hamstring during or after the run.  It hurt more to sit than to run from that point on, and even sitting became less painful after the first follow-up appointment 4 days later.

While the Batman PJs have gotten me through the core work, it's time to move on to more appropriate attire

So, on the other obvious question of “does it work?”, the answer, with one or two treatments and some very minor sensation still left, is a qualified (but only lightly so) “yes!”  I never would have expected this type of progress so quickly, given the slow progress over the 8 weeks ahead of this appointment.  As opposed to having a chiropractor be the last place I turn for future issues, Dr. Keyes may well be the first stop.  In fact, he may be one of my favorite people.

As Winston Churchill might have said if he ever encountered hamstring issues which required him to modify his overall perspectives in regards to marathon training:

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

While the ART appears to have been the magic bullet for overcoming this hamstring issue, I don’t regret at all the path taken ahead of this, as the physical therapy and downtime provided for the means and opportunity to expand the repertoire of overall exercises used to help support my running pursuits.  In addition, the discipline I developed over my diet during this down time (resulting in a weight loss of close to five pounds, even with the holiday and vacation effects included) will serve me well for future such situations, and I’ll detail such lessons in a future blog post.  But, most importantly, we are near the point at which we can declare it is time to move ahead, and begin rebuilding the Predawn Runner.

Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1

PI Road N1 Side

It’s not often that I spontaneously buy a new type of running shoe.  But that was the position I found myself in when I went with my wife to help her pick out some new shoes at the best shoe store in the area, Vertical Runner in Hudson, OH.

First, I think a bit of a lesson is in order – be careful in trusting the expertise of running shoe salespeople, especially when it’s not a running-focused store.  My wife got her first shoes from someone who had been “trained by Brooks” on selecting shoes.  While the young lady got one variable right (neutral running form), she missed a few other key ingredients.  My wife spends most of her work day in high heels as a hospital administrator, and has never really run before.  The Brooks Pure Cadence sounded good on paper, but the low drop and limited cushioning were a complete miss.  Fortunately, the store took the shoes back after ~20 miles, so we decided to go to a better source for try #2 (note, I had intentionally removed myself from try #1, to let my wife find her own space in developing as a runner). Read the rest of Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1 »

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Posted in Gear by Greg. 2 Comments

Seven Ways to Support Your Significant Other’s Interest in Running

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

Many runners are in a relationship where they are the only one pursuing the sport. Obviously, partners in a relationship can have divergent interests, that either predate the relationship or developed over time.  This is a good thing, as everyone needs their own “thing”, and their time to themselves.  Plus, running is a hobby that consumes a lot of time, and it can be difficult to balance with other needs like childcare – though hopefully you are doing your fair share of more of the work and supporting your partner’s own hobbies.

However, given the great physical and mental health benefits of running, which you are hopefully humbly putting on display through your fitness and good demeanor, it’s probably far more likely that your significant other (for simplicity, let’s just assume it is a spouse, and more specifically a wife, since Mrs. Predawn Runner has just started running) will develop an interest in running than in, say, golf or poker (especially poker). Or perhaps she just wants to have something more in common, something to talk about, or another way to spend time together.

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Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

A few Team Predawn Runner members have asked for help with their form of late. I’ve also been asked to provide some thoughts on the running form of one of the kindergarten soccer players coach.  My response? Maybe it’s a little early to worry about that…

Form is a tricky topic and in fact a bit of a “bunny hole”, particularly when coaching online. That’s partly because form is highly subjective and individual, and therefore “messing with it” can often be counterproductive. Since it is a common concern runners have, it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on a “form philosophy” that I’ve built over the years. Read the rest of Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form »