Photo Credit: Run to the Hills by Flickr user Adrià Ariste Santacreu, used under a Creative Commons license.
John Davis at Runners Connect cites some interesting studies in the debate on which running surface is best for preventing injuries. The answer, as in so many cases for runners, may well be “it depends on the runner”. And in another bookmark-worthy post, John provides a pretty comprehensive discussion of how to run hills – why they are harder, the impact they have on your pace, and why they hurt so much. This makes me grateful to be planning another flat marathon this fall.
Jeff Gaudette posts an insightful list of the pros and cons of training yourself into shape using races. Sometimes you may be forced to do it, and Jeff provides key points on how to manage this challenge. Key points include not tapering for each race and making sure you treat each race as a hard workout and recover appropriately.
Jeff also highlights some ideas to add variety to the tempo / lactate threshold workouts in your marathon or half-marathon training program through the use of lactate clearance workouts. The theory behind them is interesting, and I look forward to trying this out this summer.
A topic that has received a lot of attention lately is hydration, and Matt Fitzgerald reports on Tim Noakes’s new contribution to the discussion. His review of Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports makes a book about drinking water and sports beverages actually sound interesting.
In another example of how difficult it is to pull meaning from running-related studies, there are two opposing views on a new “10-20-30″ workout (or is it 30-20-10 – we can’t even get agreement on that!), that supposedly provides a simple approach to improving your 5K result. Amby Burfoot argues that it “could become just as popular as Yasso 800′s” in his Peak Performance post on Runner’s World (though I think Yasso 800′s are overrated). Steve Magness points out that the workout is, at best, “a low volume version of the original Lydiard schedules” and suggests that the study was generally flawed and the workout idea was not unique. I’m with Steve on this one, as I commented similarly on Amby’s post (though the rest of the Runner’s World crew leapt to Amby’s defense).
A couple of posts on pain came out this month. Rob Savarese talks about coping with pain during a race. The best advice given is to keep the long-term perspective in mind – tolerate that bit of pain at the end of your race, and hopefully you’ll be able to savor the feeling of reaching your goal for a long time to come. As I commented on his post, I’m not sure I’ve yet managed to run a race where I “left it all out there”. Even at the Towpath last year, I managed a decent recovery run back to my car. And Alex Hutchinson shares a summary of a study of studies from Germany that suggests endurance athletes have a greater pain tolerance than “normal” people.
Speaking of Rob, he also tweeted an article from Running Times that discusses the value of marathon training in improving your 5K, and how to make the transition. I’d discussed this previously in the context of a surprising 4-mile race result at the tail end of last year. What initially drew me to this post was Rob’s inclusion of the comment, “Marathon training makes you better at everything,” which I’d interpreted to mean they were talking about character-building. Well, I guess it’s up to me to continue shedding more light on that topic.
Mark Gorki provides a balanced perspective on running shoes on Brian Martin’s Running Technique Tips sight this month, pointing out that the lightweight trainer category is an underappreciated compromise between traditional “bulky” running shoes and minimalist models (the Saucony Kinvara and Mizuno Wave Precisions fit in this category, and I pointed out that the Nike Lunarfly would be a good addition). And Matt Powell reports on Runblogger that sales of these lightweight running shoes are hot. Frankly, most (but not all) runners could probably get away with running in shoes from this category.
Finally, Caleb Masland weighs in with another valuable workout-focused post, this one on how to salvage a workout gone wrong. This post focuses on how to still gain as much value possible when you just aren’t hitting on all cylinders early in a tough workout, and complements my own post on overcoming bad workouts (as mine is more focused on “after the fact”).
And looking outside of running once again this month, the Harvard Business Review blog has recently hosted two interesting posts about the value of stretch goals (which I believe to be the best way to set your race targets). In the first, Daniel Markovitz argues that stretch goals are counter-productive, encouraging excessive risk-taking and often proving demotivating. He instead argues for “target conditions” (i.e., moving from metrics to desired behaviors) and celebrating small successes along the way. In the second, Ron Ashkenas works more from the bottom-up, pointing out that stretch goals are valuable if you seek quick wins along the way. For runners, I think the best approach is to have long-term stretch goals both on the multi-year and season horizon, with achievable milestones (tune-up race performance, mileage targets, etc.) along the way to help build momentum. It is difficult to stay energized early in the season for something so far off, and the tendency becomes to do too much too quickly (i.e., excessive risk-taking) without reasonable short-term goals.
Another good HBR post comes from Susan David, who warns us against sabotaging ourselves by making pre-excuses for failure. While positioned as career advice, this is definitely applicable to runners too – do you set yourself up for failure on your tougher workouts or races by finding (or even creating) excuses before the event? You have to be willing to risk failure to achieve the best possible success.