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.
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).
Photo credit: Run by Flickr user Satish Krishnamurthy, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. Image is included in the Predawn Runner / Running Manifesto Calendar and is also available as a Predawn Runner Mouse Pad.
A recent post in the Well Blog of the New York Times provides another reason to become a Predawn Runner (as if the 20+ reasons provided previously for running predawn weren’t enough). It appears, based on a study out of Belgium, that exercising before breakfast provides greater health benefits than exercising at other times of day. The benefits specifically focus around maintaining weight in the face of a deteriorating holiday diet – one can presumably extend this conclusion to cover losing weight or maintaining weight with a more reasonable diet as well. This is great news for those of you already committed to exercising early – but note that there are certainly a lot of caveats regarding this study, as there typically are for any such “research” leading to such sweeping conclusions.
First, the benefits cited are really related to exercising in a fasted state, not specifically to running predawn. Obviously, for most of us, the only realistic time to exercise in a fasted state is before breakfast, so this is a minor caveat, but for precision sake it is best to make sure the cause-benefit relationship are more directly understood.
Second, the study focuses specifically on young men, and, as implied by the statement that the control group had to be convinced not to exercise, one can assume they were already in respectable condition with reasonable health habits. This, again, may not be much of a caveat, but it would be fair to question if the same results would be achieved (at least as dramatically) with women, or with older men. Perhaps metabolic patterns are different, and this may drive different results – though there is other evidence that exercising in a fasted state yields more fat-burning benefits, and the logic as to why this occurs is sound.
Third, the subjects seemed to participate in intense workouts for a 60-90 minute period. Thus, it is unclear if performing a less strenuous workout or doing so over a shorter period (say, 30 minutes) would result in the same difference in fat-burning results. Thus, a three- to five-mile recovery run may be just as valuable at other times of the days (though you can refer to the other 20+ reasons as to why you may want to get it done early).
Finally, the benefits sought were strictly around weight loss or maintenance. As the post notes, this doesn’t necessarily bring benefits to your performance during the workout or to your conditioning or preparations for a future goal (say, meeting a 3:00 marathon). In fact, other studies have claimed that performance tends to be slightly better in the afternoon, for various (and perhaps not fully understood) reasons. However, the same post points out studies that indicate the body adapts to the time of day you “normally” choose to exercise. Of bigger concern is the fact that relying on fat to generate your energy is less-efficient than having carbohydrate stores to quickly draw from – this can be more limiting on a longer workout, for certain and may be reason to take in some calories in the morning before or during key long runs or even high-intensity workouts (admittedly, I rarely do this, and I can’t claim that performance has suffered because of it).
So, even if your intent is not strictly weight loss, it is likely that at least part of the benefit you seek from running is better overall health. If you’re not already a predawn runner, maybe it’s time to consider making the jump and getting a quick start to meeting your New Year’s resolution to live a healthy lifestyle.
Hat tip to Nathan Adkins for sending this article along to me.
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 »
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.
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 »