Monthly Archives: May 2016

I am a Runner

running vs jogging

Do you run or jog?

Some people think of joggers as less than runners. I totally disagree. If you are out there moving your ass, you’re doing more than anyone sitting on their ass doing nothing. Pace doesn’t matter to me. What matters, is you are doing the best you can with what you have to meet your goals.

Most people who call themselves runners will be insulted when called a jogger. So there must be a difference between the two. In the not so distant past, many runners referred to “running” as jogging. In fact, Bill Bowerman who “jogged” with Arthur Lydiard in New Zealand wrote about titled “Jogging.” For those of you who are not familiar with Arthur Lydiard, he was a well known running coach who is credited with the popularization of running as a sport.

Dr. George Sheehan has been quoted as saying, “The difference between runners and joggers is a race number.” Dr. Sheehan is the author of “Running and Being: The Total Experience.

Garmin draws the line at 8 minute miles, which is their default setting between running and jogging on their GPS devices.

One of my favorite quotes, defines the difference the best:

“Running hurts. It always has. Woolly mammoths didn’t just roll over onto a plate and serve themselves up to prehistoric man with fries and a shake. They had to be caught—and running down a woolly mammoths was a bitch. Guess what? Running is still a bitch. But one with purpose. It teaches us that good things do not come easy. It teaches us that we are capable of more than we think. It teaches us that hard work will be rewarded and laziness will be punished. Don’t expect to learn those life lessons from running’s shiftless stepchild: jogging. Next time you suffer on the roads or trials, suffer proudly. It means you run like an animal.”—Pearl Izumi –

The difference between running and jogging is how you define yourself. For me, I’m a runner.

Humidity and Hydration

humidity

Hydrating properly is a huge issue for runners. Dehydration and heat stroke are just a couple of problems with being lax about your water intake during a run or other exercise. It’s pretty straight forward that you need more water when your running in the heat, but what about running in humidity. Maybe this is a no brainer for those who live in a humid climate.

For those of us who don’t (me), at first glance, it seems like maybe you don’t need as much since there is so much water in the air already. But, running in humidity actually requires more water than running in dry heat.

Our bodies cool themselves through sweating. In order to sweat we need water and electrolytes. The more we sweat, the more we need. Pretty simple. To complicate matters just a bit, intense exercise causes your body temperature to go up, which then requires more sweating. Remember the last time you had a fever? You didn’t even have to move to sweat.

When you are running (or sweating for any reason) in humidity, the sweat doesn’t evaporate, which is what allows your skin to cool. Because it doesn’t evaporate, it continues to produce more sweat to attempt to cool you down.

Prehydrating is important whenever you are going to run in the heat, but particularly when you combine heat and humidity.

Dehydration progressively decreases your pace by two to three percent for every one percent loss in body weight. Your blood volume decreases when you don’t have enough water. This makes it so your body cannot fuel your muscles properly and thus slows you down. Dehydration also slows recovery  because your body cannot get rid of waste products it produces.

Overhydrating can also be dangerous. Hyponatremia (low sodium) is a serious condition, but it’s easily avoided. If you are exercising for over an hour, make sure you are ingesting some electrolytes. Most of the time, I use salt tablets. They are easy to carry and take during a run. I will also use Heed if I’m struggling to maintain that balance. Cravings for salty things, a decrease in pace, cramps, a foggy mind, and sloshing stomach are good indicators you’re electrolytes are out of balance.

Like with any aspect of running, everyone is different. Runner’s metabolisms process water at different rates. In order to determine how quickly your body loses water make sure you are hydrated before exercise, weigh yourself before you go out, and weigh yourself again when you return. Drink water over the next few hours until your body reaches the weight it was before you exercised. This will give you an idea of how quickly your body metabolizes water.

From Low to High and Back

high to low

Why is it harder to run at high altitude? Well lets clarify what high altitude is. For most runners, it’s more than 5000 feet above sea level. To me, since I live at 4500 feet, it’s around 8500-9000 feet where it starts to impact my running.

What happens? Everyone knows there is less oxygen at higher altitudes so your heart and lungs have to work harder to deliver the same amount of oxygen to your working muscles. This means an increase in your heart rate and breathing at your normal pace when you are at high altitude for your body.

What does this mean? You have to slow down. Depending on how much it is effecting you, the distance of your race, and the terrain, you may have to slow down quite a bit such as a minute to two minutes per mile slower. The longer your body is in motion the easier it is for your heart rate and breathing rate to be impacted at normal pace. Also you may do fine running flat at 10,000 feet (me) but climbing is definitely more difficult.

What can you do if you train below 5000 feet and are registered to run something at or over 5000 feet? First, don’t set high expectations, especially if this is your first race at altitude. Second, train and race on effort not on pace. Your body doesn’t care about pace. It cares about the effort it is putting out. Third, try to find out if your body responds better to arriving 3-4 days early to acclimatize or within 24 hours of the race before the altitude starts effecting you.

The ideal situation would  be for you to be able to consistently train at altitude such as once a week. Sporadic training only gives you a difficult training run and no benefit to training your body. It may help train your mind to know what to expect preventing a freak out on race day. Another training strategy is to increase the intensity of some of your runs. By doing this, you mimic (not perfectly) the increased effort your body will experience at altitude.

The other thing to be aware of is making sure you fuel and hydrate properly at altitude. Your body is working harder which means you are going to need more fuel and more water during the race.

What about the other way around? If you train at high altitude and then move to sea level, everyone thinks you’ll have more oxygen and should be much faster. But this may not be the case. The reason is, although you have more oxygen it doesn’t equal leg turn over. In order to run faster, you also have to train your legs to turn over more quickly. To do this, you need to do speed work. If you want to be able to run a 7 minute mile then you need to train at a 7 minute mile even if you are going from high to low elevation.

Run Happy!

On Your Left!

trail runners

I became focused as I reached the top of the pass. I knew the narrow rocky descent was going to require much of my attention. I had to move my feet and stay on my toes. Missteps resulted in falls onto unmerciful rock and sticks. I loved these descents because it became a game to me about how fast I could really move my feet.

I glanced down the trail right as I dropped over the saddle. There was two hikers about half way to the bottom. The first few meters of the trail weren’t bad, but the farther you got down the slope the rockier it got, not to mention the steepness increased as well. My pace quickened. My feet balanced on the edge of certain injury with the catch of a toe or a roll of an ankle. My eyes moved back and forth between my next step and ten to fifteen feet in front of me.

“On your left,” I call out as I near a hiker picking through the rock carefully.

_____

What do you think this hiker did?

Yeah, he moved to the left and I ended up dancing around him. Luckily I didn’t eat dirt.

“On your left,” must be the most confusing statement any cyclist or runner can make. It is intended to warn those in front of you that you are going to pass them on their left side. What the person in the front hears is, “Move to your left.”

I’ve spent some time thinking about this problem because it’s happened many times. I liken it to showing someone a picture of the word Blue written in red and asking them to tell you what color the word is.

I would like to experiment with this by calling out, “move left” instead of, “on your left.” My hang up is I don’t want to sound rude and have people develop animosity toward trail runners or cyclists.

I’ve also considered calling out “on your right” and then passing on their left, but sometimes you get that one person who is probably a trail runner or cyclist themselves and they move in the proper direction.

Ideally, hikers and slower runners would listen for others coming down the trail behind them and just move over. This doesn’t happen, partially, because people have their ear buds in. The other part, I think, is they are lost in their own thoughts.

At this point, trail runners and cyclist have to call out early and be ready to move to the opposite side to pass.

Do any of you call out something different and get better results?

Rest

rest

Have you ever sleep a good eight hours only to get up more exhausted than when you went to bed? We all have. Just because you have gone to sleep does not mean that you have rested. There are four types of rest: Physical, sensory, emotional, and mental rest.

Everyone is familiar with physical rest. You lie down and don’t move your body more than necessary to remain comfortable. The importance of physical rest is pounded into every runners head. It’s essential to making gains in strength and speed. Without it, our bodies break down and we get injured. Even if you are getting eight or nine hours of sleep a night, it may not be enough to keep you going at a high level of training. Take a look at the other types of rest.

Sensory rest is when you rest your senses. Sensory overload can effect anyone. Everyone has a different tolerance for the amount of sensory input they can handle before they have a total melt down and withdraw from the stimulation. Young children are particularly vulnerable to sensory overload. But so are adults especially when it is multiple senses. It’s okay to check out for a bit. Close your eyes, cover your ears, or just go into a dark room. It’s like pushing the reset button. Allowing your senses to rest even for a brief moment keeps them fully available to you when you need them.

Emotional overload is one of the most significant forms of exhaustion I’ve ever experienced. It makes me feel tired for days. Preventing emotional overload is not always possible. One of the reasons it’s so draining is because it comes when you aren’t expecting it. Life throws a curve ball at you and there is no getting around dealing with it. This can be the death of someone close to you or a crisis in your life. It can also happen when you are taking on the emotional problems of those around you. The best way to rest your emotions is to step back and ground yourself in the present. Try to let go of worries about the future and guilt over the past. Just be present.

Mental rest is all about stopping the Tasmanian devil from stirring up your thoughts. Whirling thoughts keep you up at night and make you feel flighty during the day. You jump from idea to idea. Your ability to focus on one thing is thirty seconds at best. The result from all this; mental tiredness. The way to rest is the same as it is for emotional rest. Step back and ground yourself.

To really recover and continue to push our bodies, a full body and mind rest is essential. It’s hard to do and somedays it will be impossible. For me, running makes it much easier to take advantage of all four types of rest. It clears my mind of thoughts and lets my emotional baggage fly away on the wind. Out on the trail my senses get the sweet taste of nature and my body burns off all the energy so I slide into sleep quickly each night.

Rest fully and run Happy.

Vacation or…

runcation

So you’re going on vacation and it’s the middle of training season. Do you see your running as a hindrance or an opportunity when you are going on vacation? Maybe it’s not you who sees it as a hindrance, but everyone going with you.

Vacations can be a great way to run in new places and with new people. You can look into running routes on line and even email a local running club. Runners of clubs are usually more than happy to take someone out and show them their favorite trails and routes through the city. You may create long lasting friendships in different parts of the country or world.

If you are going out on your own, you should make sure you have some money on you in case you need to take a bus or taxi back to your hotel or stop for water or food along the way. A cell phone is also a good idea.

Your whole vacation doesn’t need to revolve around your running and in fact if you are going to be gone for less than two weeks you can cut back and just do some maintenance runs of 4-5 miles a few times each week.

If you are going to run a race while you’re there, try to time it during the first part of your vacation that way you can take the rest of the time off and not worry about what you eat and how it will impact your run. You might be a little sore, but just take along your foam roller and roll each night to work out the knots and lactic acid build up. Getting moving each day will help you recover faster, just don’t overdo it.

That’s all fine and good, you’re the runner after all. You’re excited to run in new places. But what about the family and friends you’re bringing along. The easiest solution is for them to find things they want to do while you are running. They could have their own adventures while you’re out having yours. Or you can just get your ass out of bed before they get up and get your run in that way it doesn’t interfere with the plans you have. You’ll just be a little more tired.

What if you can’t run? Look for something else that is going to keep your body moving. It won’t help in the fitness zone, but long walks, hikes, swimming, cycling all of these will help siphon off some of that energy. If you completely stop running and being active, you have a lot of extra energy to burn off. You may not be able to sleep or you could be fidgety driving everyone else and yourself up a wall.

Do what you can while you’re on vacation. If that means no running, that’s okay too. Just make sure you have enough fun to make it worth it.

Is There Ever Too Much Cushion?

shoe love

Last post I wrote about the three major types of shoes, so now let’s talk about another aspect of shoes: cushion and zero drop. Shoe companies like to tell you running in their shoes is like running on a cloud. But a cloud may not be ideal running terrain because you can’t see what your foot is going to land on if its sunk into that white fluffy goodness.

High cushion shoes are gaining a pretty good following. Each season more brands come out with their own version of high cushion shoes. Hoka One One were the first ones which hit runners by storm. High cushion shoes are great for runners who have had stress fractures and those who are heavier. They are very soft to run in compared to other shoes. There are a few things to be aware of though. First, they reduce the amount of feedback you get from the ground. This can result in a turned ankle because you don’t know what is under your foot fast enough to shift your weight. Second, for some runners they feel less table because of the extra cushion and give in the sole.

Minimalist shoes have also received a lot of hype. When people refer to minimalist shoes they can mean one of two things either zero drop (which we’ll cover next) or the amount of thickness of the foot bed and sole of the shoe. A minimalist shoe gives you the most feedback from the ground. Feedback is very helpful especially for trail runners. You need to know the angle of the trail, where the rocks and roots are, and whether the rock you chose to jump on is stable. These sensations are reduced in a shoe with a thicker sole.

Zero drop shoes are shoes that have zero to a very low (3mm or less) drop from your heel to your toe. Most shoes have a 9-12 mm drop from heel to toe. Most minimal shoes are also zero drop or 3mm or less. This makes sense since they don’t have a lot of added cushion. Zero drop shoes put your foot in it’s normal position on the ground. It allows the Achilles tendon to fully extend and it makes sure your foot, ankle, knee, and hip are lined up like they should be.

With zero drop shoes you can’t just jump into them and go out and run. You have to transition to them. The tendons and ligaments in your feet are used to the 9-12 mm drop. Running in zero drop will extend that Achilles tendon and can cause an injury if you transition too quickly. I recommend alternating between the two pairs of shoes until your feet get used to the zero drop. If you do experience sore ness in your feet or lower legs, transition more slowly.

Here is the most important thing to take away from these last two posts: FIND SHOES YOU ARE COMFORTABLE IN. You’ll be spending a lot of time in them and you want it to be enjoyable. If your shoes feel uncomfortable, try a different pair. Many running stores have a 30 day guarantee so long as you don’t trash the shoes. Clean them up with some glass cleaner and brush out anything in the tread before you take them back in.