Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Long Run: Part II

Last August, I wrote a post about the various theories of how to use long runs in training. The post was mostly about marathon training and the long run distances in several training programs.

While the August post mainly focused on the how, this post is about the why.

Before we look at the benefits of a long run, what exactly constitutes a long run? Most coaches describe it as a run lasting an hour or more. The distance you're training for and what constitutes your daily training will help you determine how far your long run should be.

If you're daily running is already close to an hour, a run lasting an hour isn't going to give you the same benefit as someone who runs 20-30 minutes several times a week. The article, "The Long View" gives good advice on long run distances. Two main takeaways from the article are that a long run should be between 1.5 and 2 times the length of your daily run, and that when deciding the length of your long run, use whatever is shorter--distance or time.

Long runs are not just for marathoners and half marathoners. If you're looking to run faster at almost any distance, a long run can help. In "The Many Benefits of Long Runs," Pete Pfitzinger describes seven benefits. Some of those benefits include an increasing your ability to burn fat, creating more capillaries for more efficient oxygen delivery and waste removal, and greater glycogen storage in your muscles. If you're interested in more details and benefits, I'd recommend checking out the full article.

Pfitzinger also mentions the spiritual benefit of running long. I agree. Even if you're not a religious person, running long is an excellent time to think and reflect.

I strongly encourage adding a long run to your weekly routine if you haven't already done so. Build up your distance slowly, and be patient as you begin to experience the benefits of the long run.

Run well.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How to Train When You're Not Training

In a previous post, I wrote about how training for a race really helps get me motivated. In my totally unscientific poll (which you can still vote on--it should be at the bottom of the page), it seems that signing up for a race gets other people motivated as well.

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/pictures/40000/t2/running-couple.jpg

 A training plan, however, shouldn't last too long. Depending on the length of the race, 20 weeks is usually tops. That's still a long time, but what do you do when you're not training for something specific?

First, I'd say take some time to recover. You shouldn't be training intensely every week, and it's not a bad idea to take a month or two where you run much less than normal. Or, you can spend a season focusing on another sport like cycling or swimming to help balance out your muscles. I also like to take a solid week or two off completely at least once per year--better to take a planned rest than be forced to rest because of injury.

Another option is to build a big base. There's a couple ways to do this--you can slowly increase your mileage until you're at a level at or slightly above the highest mileage your next training plan calls for. You can also use the Lydiard method. The 28 week plan (a notable exception to the 20 week limit), "Training the Lydiard Way: 28 Weeks to a PR" calls for 12 weeks of base training.

Besides recovery and base building, there's also the option of trying something like an endless season plan. In "Always Ready to Race," the author shows how racing throughout the year and training at about 80% capacity can lead to some fast races and fitness gains.

There's no right answer here--do something that works for you, preferably something you enjoy. Just don't train hard year round unless you're a fan of getting injured or burning out.

Run well.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Warmer Weather

Up here in the great state of Minnesota, temperatures are finally getting warmer. Today the temperature on my long run topped out at 76 degrees Fahrenheit.

One nice thing about warmer weather is the potential training benefits. Awhile back I posted a link to a Runner's World article entitled, "Heat Stress, Plasma Volume, and the Benefits of Dehydration." It gives a great rundown of how heat training can lead to training benefits similar to those of training at higher elevations.

Heat is somewhat relative. Here in Minnesota where we've been training in weather between 25 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the past two months, and even colder weather the three months before that. After running in cool and cold temperature for the past six and a half months, doing a long run in 70 degree weather can be miserable if you don't slow down and bring something to drink.

The very hot Afton 50k
Though training in the heat can be beneficial, it's also important to take precautions when running in the heat. Heat exhaustion is rare, but can still happen. Here's a good article on how to avoid becoming overheated from Runners World: "Running in the Heat."

The main takeaways from this article are:
  • Plan ahead
  • Don't over drink
  • Wear as little as possible
  • Don't do hard workouts in the heat of the day
  • Slow down

Run well.

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