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Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: training

How to Run Faster**

{an excerpt from my upcoming book: Unwrapping the Gift of Running”}

“The most effective path to faster running is to run faster.”  — P. Mark Taylor

No, I’m not kidding.  It is still true over 4 years after I first wrote those words. 

It is possible to gradually get faster by running longer, but that is more effective for the newbie runner.  Once you reach a certain fitness level, the increases in speed that you get from increased mileage begin to dwindle.  When this happens you have only one choice: run faster.

To some this will sound like a catch 22 situation;  I can’t run as fast as I want to but you are telling me to just start running faster.  Well, it is more complicated than that, but for the sake of learning I will simplify my explanation.  I am telling you to run faster but we will change how far you run so that you will be able to run that fast.  Still seem like a puzzle?

The thing that allows you to run faster than you have been running recently, is that some of your runs should be in a series of runs at shorter distances. If you can run 4 miles at a 10 minute pace, then you can probably already run 400 meters much faster than that pace. That is the key.

Key Idea:  Doing runs at a variety of distances and paces will prepare your body to handle running faster and move you towards your goals.

If you thought of running as just going out and putting one foot in front of the other, you are right.  That is true with all types of runs.  Each type of run, however, has a specific goal & purpose.  If you want to get faster, the best way to do it is to do a little bit of each type.  The ideas in this article are true for runners at all levels and at all distances.  I use this way of thinking whether my goal is the 5 minute mile, which I plan to conquer in a few months, or the marathon.  If you are thinking about 5Ks or 10Ks, this advice will work for you as well.

Safety Warnings:  Before I go on to the details, I want to say three things about safety when it comes to getting faster.

1)  You should be relaxed & comfortable at any speed.  Yes, I said relaxed.  You can work really hard and still be relaxed.  By relaxed, I don’t mean loose and free-flowing, just that you should not feel tense while you run.  If you tense part of your body, then your form will suffer.  If your form suffers, then you are on the road to injury.  Nobody gets faster by getting injured.  Stay both focused & relaxed as you do your speed work.

2)  Too fast, too soon is hazardous for your health.  Exceeding the guidelines leads to injury… and nobody gets faster by getting injured.

3)  You can’t do speed work every day.  It is not safe & your muscles need to recover.  The newbie runner can do one speed workout each week.  More seasoned runners can do 2 hardcore workouts each week.  See the section on easy runs & rest days for details.

With these important safety notes in mind, let’s talk about different types of runs done at different distances:  Repeats, Intervals, Tempo Runs, Race-pace Runs, & Easy runs.  Not everyone would agree on these as the types, but that is what I am going with for today’s blog.  Within these categories there are dozens of styles and specialized types of training, each with their own suggested guidelines.

Repeats

Repeats are the fastest of the runs, done at the shortest distances.  If you are running for more than 2 minutes, then you are running too far to do repeats.  Yes, they are that short.  Any distance that is under two minutes could be a repeat.  If you are training for long distance, this might be 400 meters (1/4 mile).

  • Run your repeats at race pace or a little faster.  Race pace is the pace at which you could run a 5K now, NOT the pace that you hope to achieve later.
  • Be sure that you are fully recovered from the first 400 meter run before you start the second.  Walk it off.  Carefully stretch. Get a small drink.  When you feel ready and relaxed, then start the next one.
  • You don’t have to do 10 to get faster from doing repeats.  Some people do 4 repeats.  Some people do 10.  Do what you can do while still maintaining your relaxed form.

If your pace will not allow you to complete 400 meters in 2 minutes, then you might not be ready for repeats just yet.  You can start with Intervals.

Intervals

Intervals are a lot like repeats, but have a different goal in mind.  While repeats are about increasing raw speed, intervals are more about maintaining your new speed over a distance.  Because of this, intervals should be at a little bit longer distance.  Aim for a distance that you could complete in less than 5 minutes.  800 meters (1/2 mile) is a common distance for interval training.

  • Run your intervals at race pace, but no faster.  Remember: Race pace is the pace at which you could run a 5K now, NOT the pace that you hope to achieve later.
  • Instead of being fully rested as you did in repeats, interval training does not allow for full rest.  The time between intervals should be about the same time as you took to run the last interval.  Unlike repeats, you jog during the recovery time between intervals.
  • Since the distances are longer than the distance for repeats, the number of intervals that you complete in one workout should be less.  You can do 3-8 intervals as long as you continue to maintain your relaxed form.

Tempo Runs

If you are racing longer distances, then you will want to practice running faster for even longer periods of time.  This is the goal of a tempo run.

  • Run your tempo miles a little slower than race pace, about 80-90% of the full effort that you would use in a 5k race now.
  • Tempo runs can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on your fitness and goals.
  • You can choose to do one or more tempo runs as part of a longer run or have it as a stand-alone workout.  In either case, make sure that you run a warmup and a cooldown in addition to the tempo miles.
  • To get faster, seek the combination of distance & speed that pushes you consistently near the limit of what you can maintain.  If you can’t maintain relaxed form, you are pushing too fast or too long. 

Easy Runs & Rest Days

Will easy runs & rest days make you faster?  Probably not.

Are easy runs and rest days important for building speed?  Absolutely critical!

How does that make sense?  Easy!  If you work the same muscle group hard every day, the muscles will get weaker.  The muscles need time to heal.  Easy runs exercise your muscles as they recover from the stress of the speed workouts.  It gets your blood flowing & speeds healing, especially the day after the speed work.

Easy days are the runs in which you ease up and get in the rest of your miles for the week.  I define the “easy” pace as being around 2 minutes per mile slower than how fast you would run a 5K today.

As for rest days, some runners can run every day.  Most runners cannot.  I recommend at least one day of full rest for your legs each week.  As for me, I am 44 years old and moving closer to the next age group. ūüôā  As my workouts have become increasingly challenging, I have increased my rest days from 1 per week to 2 per week.  Listen to your body.  Rest enough to heal quickly and prepare for more speed work!

In Conclusion

Enjoying running is more important than being the fastest runner in the park.  I want you to enjoy the challenge of getting faster while maintaining your health.  If you haven’t done speed work before or it has been a long time, then go into it carefully and slowly.  Stick to the guidelines.  Rest up.  Maintain relaxed form.  You will gradually get faster.

 

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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How I Improved from 5:35 to 3:27 in the Marathon in 18 months

[This post is an excerpt from the updated essay included in my upcoming book Unwrapping the Gift of Running.]

‚ÄúYou have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can‚Äôt know what‚Äôs coming.‚Ä̬†¬† ‚Äď Frank Shorter

Even though Frank was a world-class marathoner, I respectfully disagree.¬† I do remember my last marathon.¬† I remember all three of them.¬† If I didn’t remember, then¬†I would not have learned from them.¬† If I had not learned from them, then I would not have returned for a second or third.¬† The name of my blog is Wise Running.¬† That is not a claim that everything I do is wise.¬† In fact, it is the opposite.¬† I am gradually becoming wise through the school of hard knocks.¬† The more mistakes I make while running, the wiser & faster I become

I am now in training for my fourth marathon.  I have my training plan and I am sticking to it as much as I can.  It is, to say the very least, vastly different from the training for my first marathon.  Looking back, I no longer consider that training.  What I did before my first marathon was haphazard and probably a little dangerous.

  • I was only running a few days a week, because my knees were always sore after a run.
  • I didn’t have a plan, I was just making it up as I went.
  • I¬†only ran one 17 miler and one 20 mile run, everything else was 13 miles or less.
  • I took a total of three drinks of water during training runs in the entire “training” program.
  • There was only 1 run where I tried to consume any calories

Yes, that’s right.¬† I didn’t feel comfortable drinking while running, so I took a grand total of 3 drinks during the entire “training” program.¬† If you know anything about running long distances, you can probably guess what kind of experience I had in my first marathon.¬† Not good.

In April of 2010, I glided through the first half of the Knoxville Marathon in just over 2 hours and felt strong.¬† By mile mile 16, I knew I didn’t feel right.¬† By mile 18, I started cramping a little.¬† By mile marker 19, every muscle in my body was taking turns cramping.¬† I walked the last 7.2 miles.¬† It began to rain hard.¬† By the time I crossed the first bridge over the river, it was raining sideways because of the huge cross-breeze.¬† I was wet, cold, shivering, and generally miserable.¬† Thank God for nice people!¬† A volunteer under the bridge in the 20th mile gave me poncho.¬† It kept me warm enough to stave off the medics and gradually walk to the finish.¬† It was a humbling experience watching all of the pacers pass me one by one.¬† I refused to quit.¬† I completed my first marathon in 5 hours and 35 minutes.¬† I was in pain & suffering for the next week.

What did I learn from marathon number 1?  Plenty!

  • You had better have a training plan or you will suffer!
  • You had better have calories, electrolytes, and drinks or you will suffer!
  • I am not a quitter. ūüôā

That is the beginning of the story.  What happened in the next 18 months? 

The first thing that I always do after a bad run is to plan my return.¬† You can’t let a course beat you.¬† The second thing I did was to start reading.¬† I had half-heartedly looked at training plans before, but now I was seriously shopping for one.¬† I read up on hydration, energy gels, shoes, & everything else I could find.

I did not start the marathon training right away.   In fact, I started where I should have started the first time.  I began to train for shorter distances first.  A couple of months later, I ran the Expo 5K in 21:55, a 7:03 mile pace & almost a full minute faster than my previous 5K time.  Next I set my sites on improving my half-marathon time.  I had managed to survive a 1:59:27 at the Oak Ridge half the previous year.  I began to build a mileage base running 4 days a week fairly consistently, which was not easy because my knees were still ailing.  In October of 2010, I ran the Secret City Half Marathon in 1:48:59.

The things I was doing differently than before:

  • I gradually built up my weekly mileage.
  • I did a speed workout at the track about once a week, running 400m or 800m repeats.
  • On my runs over 10 miles, I was experimenting with sports drinks and energy gels.

One¬†more critical thing happened in late December of 2010.¬† I purchased a pair of Vibram Fivefingers¬†KSOs.¬† These are extreme minimalist shoes.¬† They are not for everyone, so don’t take this as a suggestion.¬† The KSOs were important for me because they have no cushioning.¬† The lack of cushioning caused me to alter my running form to a much better and safer form.¬† The result was happy knees!¬† When I run in Vibrams or other shoes with no cushioning, my knees do not get any more sore than any other part of my body.¬† What a blessing!

Training for the 2011 Knoxville Marathon

Despite my best intentions of implementing the full Hal Higdon marathon training schedule, I found myself starting late.  I did, however, accomplish most of his Advanced 1 training schedule.  I started on the Advanced 1 rather than intermediate plans because of the mileage base that I had built.  I found that I could adjust this particular schedule just a bit and it pushed me just a little harder.  Just right.

The things I was doing differently than before:

  • I was following an expert’s marathon training plan that challenged me just enough.
  • I focused my track work on 800 meter repeats exclusively, running every 800 at 3:30.
  • I was taking electrolyte capsules to supplement the sports drinks & energy gels.
  • I ran three 20 mile runs in preparation for the marathon.

1 Year After My First Marathon

I returned to the scene of the crime a year later.  I was not going to allow a course to defeat me and get away with it.  I was here for revenge.  I had specialized training, energy gel, a fuel belt with my own Gatorade, electrolyte tablets, and cool shoes.  Yes, folks, I was back to kick some butt!

Did it all go as planned?¬† Of course not.¬† I had rumblings in my tummy before I had reached mile marker 5.¬† Thankfully, the Knoxville Track Club and the race director know what runners need.¬† There were plenty of porta-potties along the route.¬† I made prolonged visits to these facilities no less than four times.¬† That was glitch number one.¬† Glitch number two came when I dropped the electrolyte capsules somewhere in the first 6 miles.¬† Thankfully, I had taken several before the start so I wasn’t completely out of luck.

Despite these issues, I still finished the first half of the marathon at around 1:48.¬† The first part of the course has more hills than the second half, so I knew that I could cruise to a decent time even if I got tired and crampy.¬† This time the second half of the marathon did go much better.¬† I took the time to drink more, but kept a respectable pace.¬† I felt my body running low on fuel, but I had energy gel.¬† I felt sort of a pre-cramp feeling, so I chose to slow down my pace and try to relax my muscles.¬† I did gradually slow down more than I wanted to, but I managed to complete the course in 3:55:59 –¬†about an hour and 40 minutes faster than in 2010.

I still felt as if I had been run over by a truck and my feet had a lot of blisters, but I had taken that course to school!  It had beaten me in 2010 and I beat it in 2011.

The Next 6 Months

It only took a couple of days to recuperate from the extreme soreness.  In that time, I was already beginning to plan my next race.  I knew that I would return to run the Knoxville Marathon in 2012, but I wanted to run a marathon before that.  I eventually found the 7 Bridges Marathon scheduled for mid-October of 2011.  It was just a short drive south to Chattanooga and the course looked to be flatter than Knoxville.  I did not wait for the 18 week marathon training schedule to kick in.  After resting and some gentle, short runs for the first two weeks, I began the process of cranking up my mileage and speed work.

  • IMPORTANT:¬† At this time, I learned that the most important way to handle running in extreme heat is to be running long runs as the heat increases from spring to summer.

In other words, in addition to precautions of extra water and electrolytes, you also have to gradually get your body used to running in increasingly hot temperatures.  If you begin to increase your mileage a lot when it is already hot, you may suffer a heat stroke!!!

Thankfully, that did fit my plan.¬† The official training plan that I used to prepare for the 7 Bridges Marathon was Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 plan.¬† It represented another increase in mileage and intensity.¬† By this time, I had shifted to running in Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS shoes.¬† I ran six days a week and felt pretty good.

I followed Higdon’s advice and used my marathon training to get some¬†faster times¬†in shorter races.¬† I ran the 2011 Expo 10K in May in 43:09 [6:56 mile pace] and the Fireball 5K in July in 20:41 [6:39 pace].

The things I was doing differently than before:

  • I ran 6 days per week & rested every Friday regardless of how good I felt.
  • I was following a new marathon training plan that challenged me just enough.
  • I was now doing my 800 meter repeats at 3:00, 30 seconds faster than before
  • I continued testing out new sports drinks & energy gels.
  • I ran more 20 mile runs in preparation for the marathon and even went 22.5 once.

18 Months After the First Marathon

I was beginning to fantasize about qualifying for Boston.  At my age, it would have taken a time of 3:25.  That would have been 30 minutes and 59 seconds faster than my marathon just 6 months prior.  At this level, it is not considered realistic or even smart to try to improve that much in such a short time.  On the other hand, I knew that I was getting faster and smarter.  I thought I had an outside chance if everything came together just right and the wind was at my back the whole way.

Rather than expect a miracle, however, I decided to say that 3:25 was my fantasy goal but that I would be happy to finish anywhere in the 3:30s. After all, 3:35 would be a big improvement over 3:55.  For the pace of my training, this seemed reasonable.

sprintingAt the start line, I was nervous!¬† I couldn’t decide between my two strategy choices.¬† Should I run at an 8 minute pace and then speed up on the back half to see what I could do?¬† Should I start out a little faster than “Boston pace” and hope to get close to that mark?¬† When the starting gun went off, I was thinking plan B.¬† I had to take a shot at Boston.¬† If I failed, I would still finish with a good time.

That is exactly what happened.  I finished the first half at a 7:24 pace that felt comfortable.  It did not feel like pushing it.  I drank and ate more than I had ever attempted in previous marathons in the effort to avoid the dehydration and nutrition issues that had slowed me down.  I was gradually slowing down throughout the second half, but with three miles to go, I could still run the last miles at a 9 minute pace and qualify for Boston.  Unfortunately, that is when I really started to slow down.  Despite my best training and my best drinking strategy, I was still dehydrated.

When I crossed bridge number 7 I had no gas left and that is when the cramps set in.  I gave up Boston and slowed down.  I was disappointed, but I knew that I had made a tremendous improvement and run the right race.  Looking back, the only change I would have made would be to drink 5-8 more cups of Powerade along the way.  It is just an educated guess, but I believe I would have finished 5 to 10 minutes faster if I had slowed down to drink.

As it was, I dragged myself across the finish line in a time of 3:27:27.  I had improved my time by a little less than half an hour.  Nice!

And From There?

Since I first wrote about this huge improvement, I have managed to whittle my marathon time down to 3:08:22.   I was 42 years old when I started this journey and 48 years old at the time of my current personal record for the marathon.   I continue to run marathons for fun and sometimes to compete.  The faster you are, the more difficult it is to make significant gains.  The good news is that gains do can continue as you:

  • Training consistently and wisely
  • Eat Well
  • And enjoy the run.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

______________________________________

Maybe you knew all of these lessons already, but they were new to me.  If you have learned just one new idea from reading this, then I will be happy.  We runners have to stick together.  Its more fun and safe that way.

You can find me on the web:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wise-Running/223617527674175

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/#!/Wise_Running     @Wise_Running

Daily Mile:  http://www.dailymile.com/people/PMarkT

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pmarktaylor/     @pmarktaylor

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”¬† — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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Assessing Progress: Keeping Race Results In Perspective

 

wise running logo 7_25_12At last night’s track meet, my 800 meter result was two seconds slower than last year. ¬†My first¬†reaction was disappointment and frustration. I am sick and tired of not making significant progress. ¬†Upon reflection, however, my slower performance is a sign of¬†good things.

How could this be?  When you look at race results you must ask yourself some key questions:

Was that the best I could do on that given day, under those specific conditions?

For my 800 meter race last night, my performance was solid during most of the race.  My first lap was a couple of seconds slower than the plan, but the strong wind accounts for that.  Good start.  I lost some mental focus in the first 100 meters of the second lap.  By the time I realized what was happening and managed to refocus, I had run about 130 meters slower than the planned pace.  From there, I was able to regain my intended pace and then accelerate for the last 150 meters.

Does it show progress from recent performances?

Yes.  Even though I finished slower than last year at the same event, I did make progress.  My most recent 800 meter race in June was 2:29.  This was 4 seconds faster.  So, compared to recent performances, this 2:25 is progress.

Moreover, the comparison to last year might not be fair.  There have been three events that occurred in the last year that made me slower: two wrecks and a knee injury.  In light of the fact that I took one full month off from running, it is a pleasant surprise that I am only two seconds slower.  That is a fairly good recovery.

What did I do well during the race?

The thing that went very well in yesterday’s 800 meter race was mental focus. ¬†In many recent events, I have lost my mental focus about half way through the race and never regained it. ¬†I have tailored my training to overcome this by practicing getting fatigued¬†and then running at race pace. ¬†It has pushed my body to prepare to battle through fatigue. ¬†It has prepared my mind to recover focus.

What aspect of your race do I want to improve on before the next race?

I still had 130 meters in this 800 meter race where I did not maintain focus, so I will continue to work on that.  I know that training is working.  I see the improvement.

With all of this in mind, I know that my current training is effective.  I have every reason to expect some personal records to fall over the next few months.

Every race is another opportunity to assess progress and make changes if needed. ¬†I have another 800 meter race in four weeks. ¬†I would like to see a 2:15 this year. ¬†ūüôā

Remember This!

Aim high, but keep in touch with reality.
Give yourself credit for every little bit of progress.
This becomes your courage to push for your best in the next event.

 

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

¬† ¬† — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Experimental Training: Staying the Course

Back in January, I reported that I was engaging in “experimental training” focused on building speed. ¬†I summarized by saying:

  • I will run less frequently, but with greater intensity.
  • The¬†speed-work I run on the track is going to be much faster and more intense than I would ever recommend to a client.
  • I will work harder on power through intense speed-work and additional weightlifting.
  • My long runs will still gradually increase as I prepare to run the Boston Marathon. ¬†This remains the same. ¬†There is no substitute. ¬†The experimental side of the long runs for now is that my tempo runs will be embedded within those long runs each week.
  • I will replace my easy running days with¬†cross-training on the bike and in the pool.

Has the experiment paid off yet?

No.  At least not in terms of scoring personal records.

In fact, I have had some relatively slow races lately.  Am I getting slower?  No, I am not.  I am training as fast as ever. ImplementationDip

What I am going through right now is called an implementation dip.  I am challenging my body in new ways.  Hence, my body is changing in subtle but important ways.  In the graph at the right, I am somewhere in the red zone.  My performance had plateaued, so I implemented alternative training and my performance dipped down.  As I continue with the new training, the performance will begin to rise again.  When the change is complete, I can expect my performance to not only match my prior level but to begin exceeding it.  By staying the course on this plan, I should begin setting personal records again before fall rolls around.

On a related note, this is messing with my head a little.  In races this year, I have not felt exactly the same as before.  As a result, I have not been able to make good pacing decisions.  When I get past the implementation dip, the feel of races will be more consistent.  This will help me better adjust my pacing during races and maximize my race performances.

Have I seen any benefits so far?

Yes.  I am healthier, with fewer aches and pains.  At 46 years old, that is a big deal.

I am running fewer miles and doing more cross-training that causes less wear and tear.  I am still doing a lot of cardiovascular work to enhance endurance.  It is just in different formats.  Fewer aches and pains means I am more comfortable doing strength training.  This in turn allows me to get faster.

It also breaks up the daily grind by offering alternative training sites and experiences.  Having fewer runs per week makes my runs feel even more special than before. Even though I have added biking, swimming, and some triathlons, I am still a runner.  That is where my goals are.  That is where my heart soars.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

¬† ¬† — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

 

 

The Toughest Days on the Schedule [a rest day]

Is it just me?¬† Am I the only one that feels this way?¬† I think rest days are the toughest ones on the schedule.¬† I mean… well… think about it.¬† If you think God made us to run, then our bodies should be clamoring to run.¬† And today, mine is.¬† It is screaming out with every fiber of its being.¬† The message is loud and clear:¬† “Go, Run, Play!”

Maybe the first and last words of that command would be okay, but my schedule says no running today.  My mind says no running today.  I have qualified for Boston three times now with schedules that included at least 1 rest day per week, so I know it works!  We need this day to recuperate before the big Saturday pace run and the long Sunday run.  With no rest, these runs could go flat, or much worse things like injuries and overtraining could sideline me for a while.  So, I faithfully take the day off.

Still, my body cries out: “Go, Run, Play!”

Is it just me?

_______________
Happy Running!

Getting Into the Best Shape of My Life

A few months ago I set a few Unreasonable Running Goals that are even faster than I ran back in the day.  Among other unreasonable goals, I want to run 800 meters in 1:58.

My goal is overarching goal is to reach some of the same benchmarks that I reached back in my prime.  I have been working towards this goals for several years.  I am not competing with anyone else.  I am competing with myself.  I am working towards being in the best shape of my life.

At my first athletic peak…

  • I consistently ran 1600 meter races (about a mile) in 4:45.
  • I ran 3200 meters in 10:17.
  • I ran a half marathon in 1:20:48.
  • I could bench press 150% of my weight.

I thought I would be a great marathoner by the time I hit 21 or 22 years old, but I got sidetracked with an injury that wouldn’t go away. ¬†I could not run on a regular basis.

I have worked hard in the last several years.  I have also worked smart.  I learned as much as I could about running and applied everything that made sense.  I have faced a few bouts of injury and illness, but I have made good progress.

Unfortunately, in my 6 month illness due to gluten sensitivity, I had become quite weak.  I thought my long distance muscles were fine since I was still getting faster.  I learned recently that this is not the case.  Even though I can run fast, my legs were weak.  I just had no idea because I had not challenged them.  Without noticing, I had stopped doing things that required strength.

This was revealed to me about a month ago when I was challenged by Muna to cross-train more, to build more strength to support the running muscles.  I had been resisting this idea for quite some time.  I was putting everything I had into running.  I had some soreness in my legs most of the time.  I loved my run training and racing, but it was taking everything I had.  How could I ask my body for more?

I tried a little weightlifting and injured my knees in the first week.  I had only used weights that I thought were quite small.  I had been running and doing push-ups and pull-ups on a regular basis, so I thought I was at least okay with tiny weights.  No.  I should have started the exercises with no weights and gradually added a few pounds at a time.

Even though the injury was caused by weightlifting and not running, I was able to lift weights but not able to run for the month of December.  I used that dilemma to begin cross-training hard.  I lifted weights.  I swam several miles each week.  After a couple of weeks, I was able to work on the elliptical machine.  At that point, I was also able to do more and more leg exercises.  Throughout December, I challenged every part of my body to get a little stronger.  I started moving towards a more balanced fitness.

Yesterday, I reached a milestone.  It was both exciting and humbling:  I bench-pressed my own weight.  For some, this may sound like quite an accomplishment.  For me, it is a huge slice of humble pie. It felt like starting over.  I was the 98 pound weakling from Jr High all over again.   I am nowhere near the best shape of my life in terms of strength, but I am improving.  I will get there.

This season of injury has given me the chance to have the rest of my body catch up with my running mechanisms.

  • I want to be a more balanced athlete.
  • I want to be strong, but not big.
  • I want to run even faster.
  • I want to jump high.
  • I want to remain injury free and enjoy the ride.

Over the last several years I have set many goals.  Some goals I have exceeded.  Some goals I have failed to meet over and over.

Greatness is not determined by how fast you run.  Its training.  Doing what others are unwilling to do.  Failing, failing, and eventually succeeding.

I know that persistence makes champions, so I keep trying.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”¬† — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Because Today is Tomorrow

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I was going to start eating healthier tomorrow.  I waited so many days and it never was tomorrow until I got sick.  When I became very sick for very long, I went gluten-free and became healthy.  Unfortunately, I wasted 6 months of training as the doctors and I guessed at what might be wrong.  When I went gluten-free, I began eating simple whole foods for a long time.  I went from very sick to very healthy in a matter of weeks.

I knew that eating healthier was good for me, so why did I wait so long?  I was always planning on starting it on the same day, tomorrow.

The problem with tomorrow, is that it never arrives.  Each new day redefines tomorrow as the day after today.  Hence, all of my plans for tomorrow never seem to happen.

I planned to eat healthier and it did not happen until I was forced.

What other plans did I have for tomorrow?

  • I will lift weights for strength-training and health.¬† It will make me a better runner and a healthier person in general. I will definitely start tomorrow.
  • I will be more organized and get some writing done every day so I never fall behind again.¬† That is important for both my career and my hobby.¬† I will definitely start that tomorrow.
  • I will start to practice playing my bass guitar daily so that I can fill in on the worship team at church. I have a guitar.¬† I have the music.¬† I can play along with the songs on You-Tube.¬† All I have to do is get into the habit.¬† It is just that easy.¬† Tomorrow is a perfect day for that.

Waiting to start eating better cost me 6 months of training.  A lot of opportunity for progress was lost.  A lot of disappointment was gained.

REMEMBER THIS:

If you wait for the day when you have enough time, energy, and resources,
then you may never start.  The right time to start is now.

That being the case, I hit the gym and did some lifting that I have not done in a long time.  I also added some new lifts that will specifically make me a better runner.  It may not seem like much, but I lifted weights at the gym for an hour today.  I did it not just because it is good for me, but I did it because I said I would.

I also wrote this blog post and worked on my research project.  When I get home, I will practice on my bass guitar as I said I would

 I have decided that today is the tomorrow I was talking about.

Today IS tomorrow.  What are you supposed to be doing?

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‚ÄúTrain smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Muna’s Fitness Forum: Less Than Perfect Workouts

Things could go wrong, and they sometimes do!

Sometimes I go on training runs, rides, or swims, and everything works out perfectly.¬† I remember to pack everything, my nutrition was perfect, I’m sufficiently hydrated, and I get done with a strong feeling of peace and accomplishment.¬† And by sometimes, I mean once in a while….far better

So on Saturday, a new friend messaged me and asked me if I wanted to brick train with him at Melton Hill Dam, the site of our Atomic Man race.  A brick is when do two activities back to back.  In this case, it would be a bike ride and a run.

“Sure! That would be awesome,” I told him.¬† I wanted to wait until Sunday to confirm, just to make sure no one needed me to sub on Monday.¬† We discussed where we were both at in our training, and Sunday night I confirmed.

Monday morning I woke up and packed my bags, got my bug (daughter) ready for school, and headed out for the day.

Sign #1 that I should have turned around: two texts to sub Monday morning classes…of course after I waited

Sign #2 traffic was bad causing me to be 10 minutes late

So I’m there, talking to my new friend, getting our gear ready.¬† We decided that the fog was still too heavy to start with a swim, that we would put it off till the end.

Sign #3,4,5,& 6 РMy bike shoes were nowhere to be found.  Flashing back to the night before, I realized they were probably still at the gym where I last taught a cycle class.

But in my stubborn and determined mood (ok all the time) I decided to ride anyway.¬† So I set off to tackle crybaby hills in tennis shoes and clipless pedals.¬† I decided one loop would be sufficient for my training, although he had to do 60 miles.¬† I finished a painful bike ride at 36 miles.¬† I wasn’t sure how the run was going to go, but was going to get 10 miles before jumping in the lake.

I set off on my run after charging my phone a minute.¬† It was nearing 85 degrees, but I am good with the heat.¬† I had my water and visor, so I knew it would be fine.¬† Then the side stitches began at mile 3….and the foot pain from not having cycle shoes….and the leg pain from the overcompensating of my foot pain….

I kept trudging on….and saw this view on an impromptu turn off the course:

It was literally breathtaking….

breathtaking

After running out of water and finally making it back to camp, my friend was waiting to jump in the lake!

A short swim cooled us off and gave us some practice.  I could feel my speed picking up as my kicks have made improvements!

At the first sign of trouble, I could have headed home.¬† I could have told my friend that it just wasn’t going to work out.¬† I could have opted out of the bike and just ran.

Remember This:

You can still learn and grow from workouts even when they do not go as planned.

Every training will not be what you expect or visualize.¬† You could forget gear, have a bad nutrition day, feel weak or tired, have aches or pains…..its all par for the course.¬† These inconsistencies help you to become a better competitor on race day.¬† Race day gives you one shot to get it right, so if something goes wrong its best to be prepared for the unexpected.¬† When it does go wrong, you can reflect on your training blunders and use that experience to be a stronger athlete!

Happy Training!

Muna¬† ūüôā

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Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life (2nd book)

Wise Running Book 2 is now available via in paperback and e-book. 

Wise Running Book COVER mockup

Wise Running is the follow-up to P. Mark Taylor’s first book on running: The Gift of Running.¬† While the first book focused more on getting started as a runner, this second book is more about how to move to the next level. P. Mark Taylor tells us how to think about running in ways that will help you be more consistent and improve.

Running is a great metaphor for life. It takes effort. It takes motivation. You have to stay healthy. If you stick with it long
enough and smart enough, you live a more rewarding life. So it is with running.

In Wise Running, P. Mark Taylor shows runners how to train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

The ebook includes:

  • goals, fitness, & health
  • how to think about training
  • designing a race and training schedule
  • aligning your efforts with reality
  • eating for health and fitness
  • a runner’s view on special diets
  • running-specific nutrition, including marathon nutrition
  • the effects of heat and humidity
  • the social aspect of running
  • motivation and encouragement

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The Gift of Running, the first book in the Wise Running series by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

 

Running Naked: The Effects of Watchless Running

A fellow runner posted this question to me:

Hi, P. Mark!!

What has been your experience with watchless¬†running and racing? I race without a watch but I want to start training without a watch, just enjoying runs and doing true fartlek¬†runs, don’t care wearing a watch during intervals, I have been obsesses with splits for so long that I want to try something different, I have tried fartlek¬†runs without a watch in the past and I raced decent and I loved the freedom of it!! Do you think that the training and racing suffers training watchless always ( even for hard workouts)?

Cesar

Most runners feel naked without a timing device.  That is why I refer to an untimed run as a Naked Run.

It is not the watch or GPS device that we miss.  What we are missing is data, the opportunity to analyze our running and make informed decisions about our progress and the effectiveness of our workouts.

Well, Cesar, I know exactly what you mean.  We get so caught up in the numbers sometimes that is easy to forget some important things.

  • First, in the attempt to focus on our pace and or form, we sometimes forget the simple joy of getting lost in a run.¬†The act of lacing up your shoes and enjoying the freedom that running brings.¬† There is joy in movement.¬† There is joy in enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells on the run.
  • Second, we forget to give ourselves a little latitude.¬† On hot and humid days, we sometimes forget to adjust our goal times and end up frustrated throughout the run.¬† Cold and rain can throw us off¬†pace as well.¬† Too¬† much focus on a regimented training with exact paces can drive you crazy.

Does a GPS device or a watch do this to us?¬† No, we do it to ourselves.¬† The watch is just a tool.¬† It is not the Garmin’s¬†fault.¬† The Garmin is innocent.

Say it with me: 

“The loss of the simple joy of running and¬†the negative feelings created by a “bad workout” are the fault of no one or no thing except myself.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let us move on to the other extreme.  What would happen if we all started running naked?

The Effects of Naked Running

The truth is that there is not one answer that fits all.  What is true for all runners is that pace is important.

  • Running too fast can lead to injury; a watch can tell you when to slow down.
  • Running too slow can lead to frustration because you are not making progress as fast as you could.

If you have been watching your pace like a hawk for years, you can probably “run by feel.”¬† Running by feel simply means that you can tell when you are running at or near the most important benchmarks.¬† If you are that runner, you do not need a watch to know when you are pressing against the limit of your lactate threshold.¬† You know when your body has switched from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.¬† For these experienced runners, the danger of never wearing a timing device is gradually losing your sense of pace.¬† Without timing periodically, you could venture to far away from your goal paces.

For those runners who are less aware of how these things feel, we need to go by pace and/or heart rate.  For our key workouts of the week, we have to wear our watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS devices.  This includes slow runs!

Striking a Balance

I do not believe that any runner should do all of their runs with a watch or GPS device.  I believe that one or two runs a week should be simple, relaxed runs where you can let go of the pressures of the world AND the pressures of training.  Just go out for a run.

I also believe that the experienced runners still needs to wear the devices at least once or twice a week.¬† It will allow you to document your runs and show your progress.¬† You will want this data months or years from now.¬† Wearing the device periodically can also tell you if your “sense of pace” is a little off.¬† If you are surprised by how fast or slow you are going, it is time to wear the watch more often for a while.

If you find yourself over-focused on pace and unable to enjoy the run, add some Naked Runs to your week.

Here are some related posts about the importance of pace:

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

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