Sometimes It’s Just Not Going to Happen

Streaking. It has two meanings in the running world. One is running with no clothes on. The other is running without missing a day for a long time. Sounds like pure dedication. It also can be stupid. When is it okay to miss a day? The answer to this is simple. It’s okay to miss a day when other more important things take precedence.

What could possibly be more important than your run? How much time do you have? I could list a thousand things. For me it’s “run to live” not “live to run”. Running is supposed to make my life better. It’s not supposed to control my life. Several years ago, I had to quit running every day. My knees just won’t take it. So, the health of my knees dictates to me that I can’t run every day. That is just one of many things that can excuse me from running each day. Just as an aside, don’t think that I believe running is bad for knees. Too much running can make them sore, but all the latest legitimate research says running is not bad for your knees. I stress the word legitimate here. Lots of crap you can find on the internet (where everything is true) will say that running is bad for knees. That is just bullshit posted by people who don’t like to run. We were designed and meant to run.

I will get back on the topic before I rant for an hour about bad research. Anyway, I have lots of things in my life that are more important than running. I have to go to work. Without my income, I don’t get to eat. If it comes down to eating today or getting a run in, eating wins every time. So, for me, running has to fit in around my work schedule rather than work fitting in around my running schedule.

My family is more important to me than my running. My friend who is a timer for many races over the last 40 years and has known more runners than anyone I know, has told me stories about marriages broken up because the runner was so obsessed with running that they didn’t have time for the family. Very sad and misguided. If there are family obligations or maybe opportunities is a better word, enjoy them. Fit your run in around it. Never miss out on an opportunity to make a memory with your family. It’s one of those things you won’t regret on your death bed. I am unaware of anyone regretting that they didn’t get in another 5 mile training run that day 20 years ago when we had to do the event with the family instead.

Family time is priceless.

Health is a very important reason to miss a run. If you are injured, sometimes you just have to take a break and let it heal. Patience is extremely hard when you just know your fitness is evaporating right before your eyes. Sickness that needs rest is a problem for runners. I have read that if you have symptoms from the neck up, it’s probably okay to run but if it’s in your chest or elsewhere, you probably should take a break and recover. The sooner you recover, the sooner you can run at full strength again.

Injured? Suck it up and heal quickly!

My daughter and blog co-writer is 38 weeks pregnant. Running just isn’t in the cards for her at least for a few more weeks. But it won’t be long before she can go again and get that brief respite and mental health break that going for a run, even a short one, will give her. With a brand new baby occupying more time than a new parent can imagine, running will be a luxury for a while. The silver lining here is that I would tell any new parent that I wouldn’t trade any of my memories of time spent with my kids for any number of runs I could have done instead. Running opportunities will come but kids will grow up and be gone before you know it. I will be thrilled to spend time with my new grandson, even when it comes at the expense of a run. Or maybe a long run might turn into a shorter run so I have more time with the little future runner.

The summary of all of this is to make sure running is adding to your life rather than getting in the way of your life. The benefits of running are too numerous to list here. But I have had a much better life because I am a runner. Finding that balance between running and the rest of my life is the key.

Running should add to your life.

Keep running my friends (just keep it in perspective).

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We’re All Winners Here ………. Maybe Not

I have watched a very disturbing trend over the last couple decades. Unfortunately, I have to say it seems to have started with my generation of baby boomers. That is the phenomenon of trying to convince our kids that they always win, they always did great and basically that they leave the bathroom smelling like roses every time they go in there. We never want our kids to feel bad ever. The “we’re all winners here” perception quickly turns into we’re all whiners here in reality. I see it in little kids sports when every kid on the team gets a trophy at the end of the season regardless of how good or bad they did or how good or bad the team was. I see it in schools when they no longer award the valedictorian at graduation. Well, we wouldn’t want to discourage the kids who weren’t valedictorians now would we?

I understand this movement is well intentioned. We want good self-esteem. We don’t want our kids to think they suck. We don’t want anyone to feel badly about themselves. Well, guess what. We all know whether we are good at something or not. When Jimmy or Jennifer finishes last in the race or strikes out every time they go to bat, they know they didn’t win no matter how big or shiny their brand new trophy or finisher medal is. Reality is that none of us are great at everything we do. There are lots of things I suck at. The sooner I realize this, the sooner I can do something about it. Life will chew up and spit out people who have an exaggerated opinion of themselves and their abilities. How dare my kid’s new boss expect him to do his job correctly? Hey, he tried his best. That’s all that matters isn’t it? Guess again.

 

So, we give out trophies and medals to those who just showed up and put in a little time. Those kids get the same rewards as those who knocked themselves out trying their best to actually get better at something. We don’t acknowledge the achievements of the ones who truly did do something better than anyone else just so the ones who didn’t do that well don’t feel left out. It’s possible to fool some people into thinking they are great when they aren’t but it’s really sad to see them fool themselves. It is also extremely counter-productive. Once someone believes they are great, and have a big-ass trophy to prove it, there is not much incentive to work hard to get better. After all, they got great at whatever without even trying. So why work hard? They must just be great at everything.

Nothing truly makes you believe you are good at something like actual results. Sooner or later, life smacks everyone in the face. For me, my first memory of that was in third grade when baseball season started. It was a given that I would end up as a major league ball-player and third grade would begin the journey. When my mom or dad pitched to me in the back yard, I was a dominating batter. Then that day I looked forward to for so long finally arrived. The third and fourth graders made their way to the ball field across the street after school on that day in April for the first day of tryouts. Also showing up that day was a dose of reality. Turns out I was not destined for the majors after all. I along with many of the third graders (who just like me weren’t very good) got cut from the team. This is not to fault the coaches for not keeping everyone. You just can’t have 40 kids on a baseball team and have any reasonable chance of everyone getting a chance to play.

It turned out that some of the dads did a great thing and made a team out of all of us who got cut. We were terrible, but we did get to play every game and had a ball. We didn’t get participation trophies at the end of the season, but we did get to play a game we all liked and ate a lot of ice cream that summer. Yes, we lost every game, even to the other team that was made up of kids who get cut from their school team. But we all moved on from the devastation of being cut and learned a little resiliency. Life lessons can be hard, but you are going to get them sooner or later no matter how much your parents try to shield you. Nobody, needs to be cruel about them, but a little honesty goes a long way in the end. It’s just so sad to see a young adult get their first experience with expectations for a job well done at their first actual job. The boss might be a nice person but still expects the job to be done correctly. If the newbie on the job isn’t getting it done, they are going to be out of a job sooner rather than later. Too bad for their self-esteem and too bad for their bank account.

So. Where does running fit into all of this? Running requires determination. Although I truly enjoy it most of the time, many are the days I just don’t feel like I want to slog out my next run. I believe that people with the determination to keep running year in and year out, on good days and bad ones, when it’s convenient and when it’s not, have the right stuff to become winners. No, we won’t all be winners in running. But, we can all get better. I will never win the local 5k. And at this point in my life I won’t get any more PR’s. But we can all set goals and work to reach them. If a goal is realistic, and you put in the time and work hard and eventually reach that goal, then nothing can stop your self-esteem from building. I absolutely love watching the back of the pack come in during a road race. Many of those people are doing their first race. They set a goal of finishing the local 5k and THEY DID IT! Whether they get a finisher medal or not, they reached their goal. They know they reached their goal. They put in the work and got the results! That is what it is all about. It sounds a bit dramatic, but that moment can be life changing. The overweight middle-aged mom who has given up any dreams of her own to focus on her kids who are now grown and gone, or the non-athletic guy who never even considered playing sports growing up because he was intimidated by the cooler and more athletic boys now have something that can never be taken away. Achievement! That is forever. Trophies and medals are cheap trinkets that can be bought any time for a price. Reaching a goal you worked hard and sacrificed for is priceless.

Finishing just ahead of the walkers but reaching their goal

Alright, we aren’t all going to win at sports. But can we all be winners? I say yes because I define being a winner differently. I look at being a winner as being a winner in life. Winning some race or baseball game is fun, but not important in the grand scheme. Winning in life is all that matters in the end. Who is a winner in life? That is the person who makes the world a better place because they are here. It has nothing to do with how many trophies they have or how big their home or bank account is. I think about one of the girls who was on my track team a few years back. She was not even close to being a good runner. She actually got worse as the season went on, probably due to my poor coaching. But, this girl was just an outstanding individual. She was a great student, honor roll every semester. She was involved with several community projects such as visiting the old folks at the nursing facility across the street from the school and she was just plain nice. The world is a better place because she is a part of it. She is a winner. I want to surround myself with people like her.

Will I be a winner today? I’m going for a run after I finish this, but I don’t think that will make me a winner. But, can I make someone smile? Can I help someone with a problem? Do I have the determination to solve a problem even though it will take some hard work? I sure hope so. Most likely nobody is going to give me a trophy if I do that. But, I will know I did it. And that is all that matters.

Be a winner and be awesome!

Keep running my friends!

 

 

So You Want Your Kids to Be Runners

Two great things in my life. First and most exciting to me is that I am a new grandpa! I have a brand new grandson and number two grandson is also on the way. Life is good! Second is I am a runner. I have been a runner for 50 years now and still love it. My daughter is as addicted to running as I am, and my son has dabbled in it off and on. How cool would it be to have my grandchildren become runners, too? I’m sure many of you feel the same way and hope your kids and grandkids find the same joy in running that you do. Last September, I saw an acquaintance bring his grandkids to the Castle Run (I am the race director for this race) and sign them up for their very first race. He was acting calm about it, but I know inside he was beaming with pride and excitement to introduce them to his lifelong passion.

How can you make this happen? Well, there is good news and bad news here. The bad news is that no matter what you do, you can’t make kids love running. You can’t force anyone love anything. The good news is that kids are already runners. From the moment they are able to run, you can’t stop them from running. Each Sunday immediately after services at the church I attend, the sanctuary quickly turns into a race track where the kids who have suffered through what they feel was a horribly long sermon chase each other around the building while the parents chit chat with each other for a few minutes before leaving. These are mostly 3 or 4 year olds as the older they get, they quickly learn to restrain themselves and unfortunately start acting more like adults. I think it would be so awesome to see all the adults suddenly burst into a game of tag after church. Attendance might skyrocket. Instead we are lured in by doughnuts offered once a month.

This little girl is a runner, and nobody needed to tell her to run!

Okay, how do we translate that into becoming runners in the more formal sense of wanting to do races and go out for runs with their parents or friends or join the track and cross country teams when they are old enough? Again, you can’t make them, you have to let them. There is a huge difference. I suppose you can make them. But that will last only as long as you are standing there with punishment for non-compliance. The goal is to get them to want to run when you aren’t there. What do kids want to do? Fun things. Pure and simple it has to be fun. Make it a task on the job list and you have successfully sucked all the fun out of it. Remember that 2-year old who you couldn’t get to stop running? It’s still in there. They ran at 2 because it was fun. Running is fun. Let it remain so. My recommendations follow.

Can’t play soccer without running.

  1. Play games with the kids that involve running.
  2. Let them see you run.
  3. Take them to your races.
  4. Let them join the kids fun runs at your races, but it has to be their idea.
  5. Never, ever let them hear you complain about having to go for a run.
  6. Don’t push but be agreeable to help them take advantage of any running opportunities they express an interest in.

 

Happy kids at a race, no special workout clothes needed, just fun.

Remember, little kids love their parents more than anything else on earth and want to be just like them. So, the most important thing here is to model a running lifestyle. The benefits of becoming runners are too numerous for this writing. We will get into that another time. If you truly love running and let yourself enjoy it instead of just checking it off the list of chores you have to do, you are half way to turning your kids into lifelong runners without even trying. Good luck with this. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to your kids.

Keep running my friends.

Running Naked

Total freedom. The pure exhilaration of running unencumbered by any of society’s expectations. Doing exactly as you please. Going …. wait…. what?????? Oh, I see what you are thinking. You’re thinking of streaking. Running with no clothes on is streaking. A brief fad that I witnessed in the spring in the early 70’s on the Ohio State campus and swept the nation then quickly fizzled out for obvious reasons.

Streaking

No, running naked has nothing to do with your clothing. Running naked means running without a watch. Or to be exact, it means running without a measuring device of any kind, no watch, no GPS, no computer chip on your shoe, no phone with a tracking option, no fitbit, no heart rate monitor, etc.

GPS and Heart Rate Monitor

Going for a naked run is the best of all. You step out the door and go. That’s all. You just go. Go anywhere your fancy takes you. Go for as long as you want. Go at any pace you want. Go for the sheer joy of putting one foot in front of the other and enjoy. Your run is whatever you feel like doing.

Some people can’t handle a naked run. They just have to measure it. If you want to cheat but still want to get the feeling, try it on a route you already know or on a route you can measure later. But while doing the run just lose yourself in the moment and enjoy it. This isn’t part of a structured training plan. It’s for you to do something for yourself for pure fun. We all need that. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s sometimes necessary to just step away from it all and go for a run. Clear your head and forget life’s problems. Amazingly enough, once in a while life’s problems are solved on a run when you aren’t expecting a solution to pop into your head. That opportunity is less likely if you are busy checking your watch to see what your current pace is, how far you have gone or have yet to go or if your heart rate is in your target zone.

People have asked me many times over the years, why I run. We all have our reasons, some the same, some totally unique. Some of us like to compete. Some of us are in it purely for our health. Some want to look good, lose weight or even just like the way it makes you feel. One of my favorite reasons to run is that I like knowing that I can step out the door and run without stopping all the way to anything I can see in the distance. Luckily, I don’t live in Colorado where there might be a mountain visible from 50 miles away. But I do like to just get out and go. Don’t get me wrong, I do more than my share of measuring and timing. I have tracked my total mileage every year for the last 25 years and I wish I would have done it for the 25 that came before that. But in the end, it’s really all about the person you become from running. Medals and ribbons (well maybe not ribbons so much) are nice but they disappear into a box somewhere so your kids can throw them out after your funeral someday. The person you become from running is a confident, capable person, less reliant on others for help. Runners are more likely to be self-sufficient or they quit running. And nothing provides more confidence than just stepping out the door and going where you please for as long as you want. Try it once in a while. I guarantee you will like it.

Who doesn’t want to run here and leave the world behind?

Keep running my friends!

BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Okay, so it has been a really nice fall so far until this week. Thursday, I went out for my run and it was my first below freezing run of the year. Not bad for December 7th. Time to layer up and get out there. It wasn’t so bad. But tomorrow looks like it’s going to be 21 degrees at 8:00 in the morning when I am planning to head out. In mid-January, that’s not going to seem so bad but since I’m not acclimated yet, that is going to seem like that trip to deepest Siberia I have always dreamed of or maybe not so much. I hate treadmills but the running can’t stop. So, it’s time to review the cold weather strategy, suck it up and get back out there.

Rule #1 is dressing for success. Remember the 20 degree rule. Wear enough clothing that you would be comfortable just standing around if it was 20 degrees warmer. If it’s 25 degrees, wear enough that you could just sit outside if it was 45 degrees. Layers, layers, layers! That is the key to doing it right. For me tomorrow, 21 degrees will be a 3 layer day. I’m talking about upper body layers. A long sleeved wicking shirt, then a short sleeved wicking shirt, all topped off with a running jacket of some sort will do the trick. I never wear more than 3 layers. If it’s that cold I will throw in the towel and come back another day. Time to cross train inside. Cover your head or at least your ears with a hat of some kind and cover your hands. Gloves are okay but mittens are better. Socks make great mittens. You can wipe your sweat or your snotty nose on them and just throw them in the washer with the rest of your nasty sweaty running gear. Below the waist, running tights or pants are always in style and will keep you warm. Warm legs are less likely to get injured. Socks for the feet come in different weights. I like my double layered socks made by Wright Sock. Besides being warm, they are nice for preventing blisters. How do you know if you have enough on? If you are nice and warm when you start out, you are overdressed. If you are shaking and shivering from the cold before you start, you might want a little more.

Dressed for winter success – layers, hats, gloves

Rule #2 is staying dry. Once again, layers are the key. Layers of wicking material will suck away the sweat while the air between the layers keeps you warm. If you get wet, you are in trouble. Really, I do mean potential big-time trouble like frostbite trouble or worse. So, leave the cotton shirt at home to wear after your shower while you sit in front of the fireplace having that well-deserved cup of hot chocolate. Don’t step in puddles. If there is a deep puddle, even if there is a covering of ice, stay off it. You might break through and soak your foot. Wet body parts just get cold.

Rule #3 is watch your footing. I just mentioned ice. You are way more likely to have a problem due to slipping on ice and busting your head open than you are to freeze up your lungs or watch your fingers fall off from frostbite damage. I have friends who have put screws and other homemade traction devices on the bottom of their shoes. Forget it. Just stay the hell off any ice you see. If there’s not a non-icy path you can follow, just give it up. Come back to run outside another day. Get on your exercise bike or even jump on the dreaded treadmill. Running on icy roads is just not a gamble worth taking. One more thing here. Snow and ice aren’t the same thing. You can run on snow. It gives you a little traction. If you go outside and find out once you are too far gone that the conditions are icier than you thought, try to step where there is snow and avoid any black ice spots.

Notice all the dry road and this one chose to run on the icy spot.

Cold weather myths are plenty. People look at me like I’m nuts when they ask what my distance runners do in the winter since they can’t go outside. I ask them why they think the runners can’t go outside. They just stare like I’m a slave driver. I have never had a runner come back in that didn’t work up a sweat outside. Now I do draw the line at certain temperatures. I think around 8 degrees is as cold as I have run in and I don’t ask my team to go outside below 10 degrees but I know they could if they wanted to. The myth is that your lungs will freeze up. I see that all the time in the obituaries when all those young runners die from frozen solid lungs. Come to think of it, no I have not ever seen that anywhere ever. It just doesn’t happen. Frostbite, maybe. Frozen lungs, not so much. One of my favorite stories comes from my first year of coaching high school track. It was about 15 degrees and very windy. I’m sure the wind chill was about zero. I told the girls, I am not going to ask you to go outside. You can if you want but it is not a requirement today. They all looked very relieved until Kristen, our all-state 3200 runner, looked at me and said “I’m going out”. Every single one of those girls dropped their heads in shame and then followed her. Now that is leadership. The best part was that every one of them came back sweaty. No frozen lungs or frostbitten fingers.

To sum it all up, winter running is awesome. It is less dangerous than running in high heat and can be a beautiful peaceful time to run outside. Just use your common sense, dress right and watch your step.

Total breakdown in common sense is pictured above. Who is the bigger fool? I think it’s the moron who took his baby out for a winter run in the stroller in icy conditions. If gramps frostbites his nipples he can only blame himself. If the baby in the stroller gets cold, his dad is in big trouble.

Keep running my friends!

Puke on the Track

The final piece to our training puzzle is the maxVO2 workout. Once again, it’s all about oxygen. Lactate threshold training allows you to burn more of your fuel in the presence of oxygen. Running economy allows you to do more with the oxygen you can process. Max VO2 training allows you to flat out get and use more oxygen.

Definition: According to Webster max VO2 is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can utilize during a specified period of usually intense exercise.

Who needs to work on this and how do we do it? Runners who are looking for that workout to put them over the top need this one. If you are striving for being the best of the best, looking to win your league championship, crush the others in your next 5k, or you have plateaued and just want to bring your time down some more, then this is what you want to add to your workout routine. Who doesn’t need it? I don’t need it or want it. My days of PR’s are long past. These workouts are the ones where we occasionally get to see puke on the track. I don’t enjoy them, and never did. My running now is for fun and good health. But if I was still looking to shave a few seconds off my mile time, this would be what I would add.

The max VO2 training can take you to the top

The max VO2 workout is a more intense session. You are running at 90% or more of your maximum heart rate. Because of this it isn’t as long as the other types of training workouts. The typical pattern is an interval session with shorter intervals with recovery time between the intervals equal to the amount of time spent on the work. For example, 10×400 at 80 seconds per 400 with 80 seconds of rest between each 400 was a session my state champion 3200 runner did. Now she was able to run 3200 meters (2 miles) under 11 minutes. So, the intensity of the run is based on where you currently are in your fitness. For a thorough in-depth explanation, buy the book Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels.

There are several variables in this as there are in any workout that involves intervals. How fast for each interval, how many intervals, how much time between intervals, how long is each interval, how often you should do this workout, and what to do during the recovery period between each interval.

Let’s start with how fast your max VO2 intervals should be. As a rough rule of thumb, your 2 mile race pace will take you to your max VO2 heart rate. There is no need to go faster in an interval workout than this if your purpose for the workout is to improve your max VO2. Once you have reached your maximum heart rate, going faster won’t make your heart beat any faster. There are other types of workouts with other purposes that require a faster pace but not this one. If you can run a 2 mile in 16 minutes, then that is 2 minutes per 400 meters. So, let’s start here. This runner is going to run at 2 minutes per 400 meters for each interval. If your interval is 600 meters long it should take you 3 minutes to complete each one. If it’s 800 meters it should take you 4 minutes. Is it okay to go faster? I will stress again there is no value in going faster for this. Once you have reached 100% of your maximum heart rate, you only risk hurting yourself by going faster. You will get to go faster as your race times indicate you are in better shape. Once your 2 mile time goes down, let’s say to 15 minutes, then your 400 max VO2 interval pace would drop to 1:52.5 per 400. But, you say, I don’t have a 2 mile race on my schedule. The Daniels book has tables that can give you the proper pace based on just about any distance you do actually race. Do base it on an actual race time and not what you have done in practice.

How long should the interval be? How long and how many go hand in hand. Since you are going 2 mile pace, you obviously can’t do intervals longer than 2 miles. My opinion is that the length shouldn’t go beyond 3 minutes for each interval for this type of workout. I rarely have my runners go beyond 2 minutes. The whole reason for breaking the session up into intervals is to allow more work to be done at that pace. Going back to my earlier example, my 3200 runner was able to do 2.5 miles (10×400) at 2 mile pace by breaking it up into segments where she could not have done that much work without the recovery breaks. It’s hard to make the run too short. Running 200’s is just fine but you need to do more of them. If this is your first attempt at max VO2 intervals just do a few. Let’s use this as an example:

1 mile easy warmup

4 x 400 meters at 2 mile race pace

Equal amounts of recovery time between each 400

1 mile easy cooldown

Stretching and post-workout recovery food

There now that is an entire workout. If this is too easy, then next time do more 400’s. You can increase how many you do until you can’t do more. Remember this is the workout that crushes souls and can bring puke to the track. In general I would do them until you think you could maybe, just maybe do one more. Then stop before doing that last one. We want to save your maximum effort for race day. We see lots of workout kings and queens who fall flat on race day but dominate in the practice sessions. Don’t do them at a faster pace until your 2 mile race time indicates you should. The mistake so many newbies make is to think they will get more benefit out of running them faster. No, just do more of them. It’s okay to always do 400’s but that gets boring. Switching it up to 200’s or 600’s or whatever is fun, but just keep them short enough so you can do a few of them. Trying to do 1600’s at 2 mile race pace just doesn’t allow you to do much of a workout.

The recovery period is important. Keep it equal to the time of the work. If your interval is 80 seconds, then recover for 80 seconds. If it’s 2 minutes then recover for 2 minutes. If it’s 45 seconds, then recover for 45 seconds. Not rocket science. Should I walk or run or stand around during the recovery? Number one, stay on your feet. If you can’t stay on your feet and have to lay in the grass then you are either going too fast or you have done too many. Standing still allows your muscles to tighten up. I prefer walking or a slow jog. Either one is fine.

Recovery shouldn’t look like this

Last of all is how often a max VO2 workout should be done. Once per week is enough. Your body needs time to recover from this one. An easy day of easy running or nothing at all should follow it. If you are on a track team or coaching a track team, consider race day as a max VO2 day while planning your training schedule. During the competitive part of the season, it’s okay to have two max VO2 sessions per week if you are counting race days as such but don’t overdo it.

To sum it all up, I am happy to watch other people do these sessions. I’m not into puking or pushing my limits that much at age 62. I can also accept it when Mr. Interval trainer blows past me in the last 100 of the local 5k. But if you are still in possession of that competitive edge and looking for the “secret” workout to shave those few extra seconds off your time, this could be the one for you. But after you finish your race, don’t forget to turn around and cheer for us slower people as we finally make it to the finish.

Please don’t rub it in too badly when you crush me after your max VO2 workouts.

Keep running my friends!

Long Runs and Junk Miles

Beginning runners like to know what the best way to get better at running is. That’s easy. Run more. Plain and simple. Don’t make it any more complicated than that. I should quit right here but I can’t help myself and now I’m going to complicate it some.

How much should I run? How often should I run? How fast should I run? All good questions. So, let’s start with the basics. What happens when we go for a run? If you don’t go too fast and your heart is not pounding out of your chest and you can actually talk some while running, then you are doing an aerobic run. That is good for the vast majority of our training. Running aerobically (in the presence of oxygen) is the most efficient way to run. Training aerobically helps your body get better at running aerobically. This means your body gets more efficient at getting oxygen to the muscles that need it and once there, that oxygen is used to help turn food into useful energy.

There are a lot of things in the chain that brings oxygen to the muscles. You need lungs to take in the oxygen. You need blood to take the oxygen from the lungs. You need pipes (arteries and veins and capillaries) to transport the blood. You need a heart to send the blood where it is needed. You need mitochondria in the muscle cells to use that oxygen. You need various enzymes to speed along the chemical reactions that take place in the mitochondria where the oxygen is used to help make ATP (our useful energy supply) from the food we eat.

All of these are things that can be improved. Your heart can get stronger. Your blood vessels can stay clean and you can make more of them. You can have more hemoglobin in your blood to carry the oxygen. You get the picture. How do we do that?

We run more. The best run for that is the long run. What is a long run? How far is it? That is totally dependent on what kind of shape you are in. For an Olympic distance runner, don’t even think about calling it a long run before 10 or more miles is up and that is probably just the beginning. For the experienced age group racer, it might be 6 or more miles depending on their current fitness. For the beginner just getting their feet wet, it might be a mile. It’s really just a run that is longer than what you are used to doing on the other days of the week.

During that long run, the goal is to go fast enough to get your heart rate up a bit but not going crazy. Then just keep on going. This forces your body to use oxygen as well as it can. Once your body sees that it is going to be needing oxygen more than normal, it will start preparing for that. Your body is smart. It will build more mitochondria. It will make more of the enzymes that are used during the aerobic process. It will make your heart stronger and more efficient. It will even help you create more blood vessels. That is one of my favorite perks. More blood vessels is what we call collateral circulation. The more of them we have, the harder it is to have a problem if one of them gets blocked.

Blood vessels, the more the better!

How often for this magic long run? No more than once a week. Doing it too often will end up breaking down something and you won’t be running for a while as you recover from your overuse injury. So, let’s say you are usually running for 3 miles at a time or 30 minutes if you go by time instead of distance. Try once a week to step this up to 4 miles, then 5, then 6. Weekends are the best time to do it just because you usually have more time and it gives a great name for a running blog.

 

The fastest way to get faster is to run more. Try building up to the long run. It will surprise you what you can do. Keep running my friends.

It’s a great feeling to look into the distance and know you can run to whatever you see.