Thursday, December 01, 2011

Junk miles, cross-training, F.I.R.S.T, older runners

I haven't been posting too much other than race reports lately so I decided to ramble on a little bit about a few things that come up every now and then on some training ideas. There are seemingly a zillion different training plans and many different ideas out there and the fact is most of them are going to be somewhat effective for most people. Some will work better for some better than for others and the only way to find what works for you is to experiment with different approaches.

I've certainly tried a lot of different things over the years and as my focus on different distances and events have changed over the years I have tried to use what I've learned to maximize my performances. As I approach my 56th birthday I have found that my main focus now is staying healthy and having fun but I still try to do the best I can when it comes to race day.

One thing I've been reading and hearing about for years is how Masters runners need to add more recovery time to their schedules and to add more rest days to their schedules. Usually the suggestion is to only run 4 or 5 days a week but to still maintain the intensity of the harder workouts. It is also suggested to only do one hard workout a week.

Very similar to this is the theory behind the F.I.R.S.T program developed at Furman University. The basic concept of this program is to only run 3 days a week but have all three workouts serve a specific purpose to build endurance, stamina and increase lactate threshold. This would include a long run, a tempo run and a track or interval session. The remainder of the week would include cross-training, mostly at an easy intensity. I know of a few friends that follow this program or at least try to closely follow a similar approach and have very good results.

I'm sure that the program works for a lot of people and has proven results but there is one reason why I would never use it myself and that is because I love to run. I am fortunate to have a lot of free time now and the main thing that I enjoy doing to fill that time is to run. If I feel like it and I've got 2 hours to spend running I'm going to run no matter what a schedule says I should do. I can't imagine having a perfect 55f degree afternoon free and not running if I wanted too. For that matter, I can't imagine not running if it's a miserable 95F or a freezing 17F. If I've got time and i want to go run, I'm going to run. And if I have the opportunity to run with one of my Angels, I'm going to try and make the time.

Many would refer to those extra runs as "junk" miles because they supposedly serve no training purpose. That debate will go on forever but I tend to agree with the Ray The K theory that there are no junk miles and every mile is training for something and especially for ultra running. If I've only got time for 3 or 4 miles between jobs or before some other important function, I'm going to run if I feel like it junk or not.

As far as cross-training is concerned, I find that it can be useful at times and even enjoyable but it just doesn't float my boat the way running does. Before I began running ultra's in 2002, I had been doing triathlons for several years. I had torn my ACL in 1998 playing soccer and getting in the pool and then cycling had been great for getting me into shape as I rehabilitated the knee and I certainly enjoyed competing and challenging myself in the tri's but biking and swimming as much as I enjoyed them could never replace the joy and pleasure I get from running.

I finally quit both swimming and cycling by 2005 to concentrate on ultra's and qualifying for Boston and didn't bike or swim for three years until I decided I wanted to finally enter and do an Ironman in 2009 and since Sept of that year I have not participated in either of those activities. At some point in the future I may get the urge to do some more tri's but right now I don't see that happening anytime soon.

I did find the cross training to be helpful to maintain my fitness and sanity when injured and when I took off 6 weeks at the end of 2008, swimming helped to maintain a little of my fitness but I can say without a doubt that neither biking or swimming ever made me a better runner. It was only when I stopped doing those two and focused on running more miles that my running improved.

I've also found that for me stretching, weight lifting and core work are highly over-rated. I do practically nothing in the way of stretching now and never have done a lot. When I was a younger runner I did some yoga but got really bored with it. Most of the stretching advised for runners over the years I have found to be counter-productive and served no purpose in making me a better runner or preventing injuries. In fact when I was told to stretch for the few injuries I've had over the years I found that it seemed to aggravate things more than help. All I do now is a little dynamic stretching for a few minutes to warm up.

I was actually focusing on body-building when I began running in 1977 and after awhile gave it up because I found I enjoyed running more. I dabbled in weights off and on a few times over the years and when I re-joined the Y in 2008, I began to train seriously as I was working toward my Ironman for about 1.5 years I was working out 2 to 3 days a week with weights and doing 20-45 minutes of core work 3 to 4 days week. I was feeling pretty good and I think it may have helped me some but I haven't done any for the past 1.5 years and I'm running as good or better now than I was then. I have been doing some push-ups and will try to do a little more core work a couple of times a week just because I like the way I feel doing it but I have no illusions of it making me run any better. It seems that's all you hear about now and all the PT's and running publications are pushing core work to make you a better runner but the average race times keep climbing and the average age group placement times are way slower than back in the 70's and I bet you don't see too many Kenyans worrying about their core either.

Well that's enough on that for now. If anything I've said offends anyone then, well get over it. No really, if you love to bike or swim or lift weights or only want to run 3 days a week and that makes you happy then it's all good. I'm going for a run.

No comments: