Note: For this and all future editions of the monthly “best-of” roundups, I’m going to limit it to ten posts. Last month’s nineteen were a bit much for me to handle – and probably you too. Hopefully this results in a more selective and readable post – and if we need to trim it further, we’ll do so. My goal is to expose you (and therefore me) to a broader array of intelligent voices in the running world.
Call me strange (as I’m sure you do), but one topic I love to read up on is injury prevention and recovery. In this twisted mind, any runner that is worth their salt is going to push the limits and wander into injury from time to time (but hopefully less frequently). Along those lines, some of the best posts this month take a look at this topic. First, regarding an injury I’ve written about previously (and which has been pretty broadly shared – relatively speaking), Jeff Gaudette at Runners Connect covers Achilles tendinitis – bottom line, get familiar with the eccentric heel drop protocol (and I find the Nike Free’s Jeff shows in his how-to pictures to be great shoes for this exercise).
Rick Merriam at Engaging Muscles takes a bit of an off-beat approach in discussing Achilles tenidnitis’s evil step-sister, plantar fasciitis. While at times it seems like an anti-Nike screed along the lines of Born to Run, there is some food for thought, such as the idea that plantar fasciitis itself is a disguise for more fundamental issues.
And in a broader sense of injury prevention, Matt Fitzgerald at Competitor provides a broad model for becoming a more injury resistant runner (note – it should be obvious that no runner can ever be completely risk-free when it comes to injury). His key point is that your approach needs to be targeted for your weakness – generalized approaches to stretching or strength training (or even nutrition) won’t give the results that focused work will, nor do most of us have the time for such breadth of activity. Runner, know thyself.
Moving from injuries to training, Steve Magness at the Science of Running posts a lengthy essay on how to take the complex idea of designing training to stimulate specific adaptations and make it simpler. I’m not sure he fully accomplishes that in this post, but it’s a promising start, and a reminder for any athlete or coach to try to simplify your approach as much as possible – but at the same time, don’t over-read your results as there are a lot of complex interactions that dictate how a workout goes. Control what you can, but recognize that you will still face uncertainties.
Now it’s back to Jeff to demonstrate a bit of this in action in discussing how to pace your long runs. Assuming the goal is to primarily build aerobic endurance and it’s not pace specific, Jeff points out that the greatest gains for your aerobic system come at a speed that is <75% of your 5K pace. That’s why all of my longer runs during this transitional period between seasons are at 7:35 / mile or slower.
Joe Friel shares some interesting thoughts on a topic I often see runners struggle which – that being which indicators during your training cycle are most predictive of race performance. While written mainly for cyclists, the same concepts generalize to running too – and most importantly, the single best indicator of your expected race performance is your tune-up race performance. Things that are least indicative are weekly mileage, heart rate details, etc.
And speaking of ambitious undertakings, the folks at Sneaker Report attempted to list the 100 best running shoes of all time (does anyone else refuse to call them “sneakers”?). Hat tip to Pete Larson at Runblogger for pointing this one out. Obviously, any such list will be controversial, and I’m not sure the minimalists out there will even last past #1 (though it gets a little better at #2). Just a warning, these shoes have a lot of “sole”.
In a new twist on race fees, David Monti on Competitor explains how Allianz is offering insurance for your race entries. For a cost of $7, you can purchase this insurance when you register, and then file a claim for a refund of your fees should you need to withdraw due to injuries or a schedule change. Several things will be interesting to watch about this – first is what the uptake will be. Just like extended warranties, if Allianz priced this right then the expected value should be worse for runners (i.e., you will, on average, pay more for races and Allianz will make a profit), but the inherent risk aversion most people have will probably drive a higher likelihood that they will purchase such insurance. Obviously, it will also be of more value for more expensive races, so I’m not sure if pricing will end up differing. Finally, it may suffer from “adverse selection”, whereby those most likely to be injured (such as moi, who has lost out on 3 marathon race fees the past two years) would be likely to buy it, which will in fact hurt the profitability (and may eventually drive up pricing).
And in the shameless self-promotion category, I’d like to point out my guest post on Runners Connect that may help you broaden your horizons about stretching and flexibility. We aren’t talking about the leg-up-on-the-hurdle that your grandma used to do. The flexibility that matters for runners (if any really does) is far more specific than that.
Finally, in moving beyond running blogs Seth Godin points out the importance of favoring anticipation over anxiety. All the more reason to start thinking of your recovery runs as anticipation runs, and to keep them positive and forward-looking. Thanks to Darren Croton for tweeting this one my way.