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You Don’t Run Enough Bro…

Posted by on Feb 5, 2012 | 18 Comments

It’s a slow news week, I’m suffering from writer’s block with the Squirrel Wipe project, and I’m sick of discussing Susan G. Komen.  What am I to do?  Disagree with Christian!

In his latest blog post, The Maple Grove barefoot Guy discussed the need to run often.  His conclusion- we run too much.

As evidence, he points to the latest Lieberman study and something like 75% of the participants getting injured as evidence.  The problem- the study was conducted on a college cross country team.  They’re notorious for overtraining.

I’d like to amend Christian’s opinion.  We don’t always train enough.

Over the last few years, people have been searching for any way to cut corners to run as little as possible.  It’s entirely possible to finish races of any distance on minimal training.  Hell, it’s more or less my philosophy.

But there’s a definite correlation between mileage and performance.  Can anyone name a single elite that does well using low mileage?  I didn’t think so.

It’s sort of like those silly kids trying to pimp out their Hyundai.  They can tweak anything and everything, but the car still can’t outperform a stock Mustang.  There’s no replacement for displacement.

Same deal with training mileage.  If you want to do well, you have to put in the mileage.  The issue is pretty simple- too many people try to run high mileage before they can handle it.  This graph illustrates the point:

Want to do well?  Run a lot.  But you have to build up to those high miles.

Of course, his point about adding variety to your training routine is spot-on… but burpees can’t get you to the finish line of a 100 miler.

And that old dude versus sprinter pic?  Well, we can play that game all day.  :-)

 

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18 Comments

  1. Hanutas
    February 7, 2012

    What we really need is a better way to test whether we are over training. Something more accurate than morning resting pulse rate and something that complements self awareness but kicks in before lead legs. A lot of the newer heart monitors try to do that with features such as EPOC/training effect/training load etc. Some innovative software like FirstBeat Athlete tries R-R interval analysis to give the answer. I have also heard good things about ithlete, an app/hardware combo. If it works as advertised you could heed the warnings and take some easy/rest days without any guilt or go out and build that mileage all you can.

  2. Rob Y
    February 6, 2012

    And at the same time it’s good to know when to back off and rest and cross-train. I’ve seen too many folks get super into running, especially when they’re very new to the sport, and end up overdoing it either getting injured or burned out. It’s easy to get “hooked” and end up training and racing like mad, been there done that! :) From the perspective of an ultrarunner, I think instead it’s important to really just focus on a few key races every year and adjust your mileage and specificity training accordingly.

    So know when to train hard and when to rest; it’s a mistake to try and stay in “peak shape” year round. That is simply a recipe for disaster.

    • Jason
      February 6, 2012

      Agreed. I’ve always been interested in the people that can train all year long at roughly the same high level of intensity. Are they just freaks of nature? Have they just built up a phenomenal base and never enter that “yellow’ zone in the graph?

      Personally I couldn’t do it. Physical issues aside, I’d succumb to burnout. As much as I like running, I need some time away to re-stoke that fire.

  3. Brian G
    February 6, 2012

    It all depends on your goals. If you want to just finish a race, never mind making it within the time limit, then in all likelihood no training is necessary. (How many times have you all seen folks pushing baby strollers in 5Ks and afterwards saying “Yeah, we did a 5K”?)

    The better you want to be against yourself or others or some time limit, like a world record, the more you’re going to have to train in the same manner at which the event takes place. Western States 100? Do a helluva lot of higher-altitude long trail runs with big elevation changes. The mile? Better train running damn fast. Clean and jerk and snatch? Sure as hell better to a boatload of Olympic lifting. It’s simply sport-specificity training, but not just in the style of the event but also at the stress level of the event.

    The human body has a remarkable ability to adapt to enormous stresses. But recovery is key to building up that ability. Elites, always out to be better than the everyone else on the planet (that’s why they’re elites after all) must push the boundary between optimum performance and catastrophic failure.

    A problem with the more general population is often times training like an elite but without qualified coaching — or, more importantly, a good, firm view of reality.

    • Jason
      February 6, 2012

      Your last paragraph really hits the nail on the head, Brian.

  4. Erik
    February 6, 2012

    It really depends on one’s goals, doesn’t it?

    Some of us who run for fitness, not races, turn to serious runners (like you) for running advice, and then we foolishly compare what we do with what they do, completely forgetting that the goals are very different. So there’s an urge to get the mileage up, before we’re ready, without doing the training necessary to get there.

    Christian gave me great advice to vary my weekly running routine (sprints, intervals, one long-slow), which makes a lot of sense in terms of my general fitness goals. I also have more of a sprinter’s body, so more than one long run a week might be too much impact on my knees and metatarsals.

    • Jason
      February 6, 2012

      Erik, did you just call me a serious runner?!? :-)

      It does depend on goals, and this post was geared toward those that want to perform well. For those that don’t, I’d say training should be enough to finish you desired race in relative comfort.

      I completely agree with Christian’s philosophy of variety… I do that myself. However, if I wanted to actually finish toward the top quarter of the standings, I’d have to put up much more training mileage. And you’re right, too many people try to make that jump well before they’re ready.

      Eventually you get to the point where you can tolerate higher and higher mileage. Personally I’ve never gotten to the point where I could tolerate much more than about 80 mpw, and have only surpassed 100 miles two or three times (excluding race weeks).

      An interesting question- do we have finite limits? Will each of us come to a point where the green line flattens out?

      • Erik
        February 6, 2012

        Well, any one who does ultras is a serious runner in my book. OK, I suppose you’d like to win one, but running a 100 miles is way beyond what most of us do.

        I have some experience with distance too. I traveled by bicycle across Africa, the Middle East, and Europe for two years–with 50-100 pounds of gear and water capacity of 13 liters. On good asphalt, 100 miles was my daily average, after I had worked up to it. One time I did nearly 200 miles–more than 15 hours in the saddle, on one of those “triple biorhythm peak” days. But cycling is a lot different than running. You don’t have the impact, and it’s pretty easy to settle into a good aerobic zone. I also had lots of days off, to visit with the people who put me up, or to see a museum or some other tourism-worthy attraction. Still, even in peak fitness, there were days when my legs felt like lead. I was ‘overtraining’ without realizing it. Now, in a casual fitness regimen, I try to follow the 48 hours of rest rule for any muscle or muscle group. I think for most people, if you follow that rule, it’ll be difficult to over train or develop repetitive-stress injuries. Of course, you may not be able to win a lot of races like that.

        As for limits, of course, we all have limits, but in my experience, it’s pretty difficult to get to within even 70-80 percent of them, unless someone is paying you to train exclusively. You look at top athletes, and the difference between them is usually a very small. That to me indicates that they’re coming close to overall human potential in their respective competitions, like the 2-hour marathon.

        Ok, end of ramble …

  5. Alex
    February 6, 2012

    I don’t want to be the guy to say it, but this is hardly the site to play the “do as elites do” card. As people are all too fond of pointing out, no elite runs barefoot for anything but strides, and most wear pretty bulky trainers.

    As for the mileage, I think we’re getting a better understanding of what sorts of runs lead to what fitness gains, and how to achieve those without increasing injury risk too much. As such, you’re seeing some elites switch a fair bit of their recovery mileage to zero-g treadmills or ellipticals. Non-elites can learn from that, I think. So I agree, basically, that we should train as much as possible. But I question the need for much of that training to be medium effort, medium distance running.

    • Jason
      February 6, 2012

      I purposely avoided discussion of the types of runs that would make up the training mileage. There’s a sizable debate between the LSD crowd and the high-intensity/short duration crowd.

      Top performance ultimately comes down to flirting with the line between the yellow and green lines on the graph.

    • Jesse
      February 12, 2012

      Well said, Alex. If you look at lots of elite marathoners, they’re running high mileage, but more importantly, less “junk.”

      That doesn’t mean a person can’t do whatever they want. I personally (not a great runner, but I’ve won a couple ultras and local races) like running because it gets me outside and I enjoy it. I guess that means my training takes a hit because my daily running isn’t solely focused on race performance.

  6. briderdt (David)
    February 5, 2012

    I remember discussions a while back talking about triathletes. Mark Allen, Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Mike Pigg… These guys trained MEGA mileage, and they routinely HAMMERED each other in training, and raced all distances at the sharpest of the pointy ends of the sport. Then all the “experts” started weighing in with all kinds of methods to get more with less… And the second generation couldn’t come close to matching the performances of the pioneers. Dave Scott is still tearing it up into his 50′s.

    Don’t think too much. Nike wasn’t so far off the mark — Just Do It. Enough so that the race is easy.

    • Jason
      February 6, 2012

      Getting more with less… it’s what we do as humans. The problem, of course, is that “less” doesn’t always equate to better. When it comes to high performance, I don’t know that we’ve come up with a “less is more” solution that replaces “more is more.”

  7. Jesse
    February 5, 2012

    It seems to be a double edged sword (I don’t know if I’m using that phrase correctly). Running high mileage is important to running at a competitive level. Elites are elite because they can handle high mileage. Like you said, there aren’t too many folks pull-upping their way to a podium. If a person doesn’t want to run a lot, why would they like to run a long race?

  8. Jason
    February 5, 2012

    Web sabermetrics indicate 90% of my readers still use Windows 3.11.

    • Jesse
      February 5, 2012

      I’m glad you use low quality graphics. I only get so many minutes of AOL CDs per month, and I can’t be wasting time with fancy graphs and/or cat pictures.

      • .:Ash:.
        February 5, 2012

        Ha! Best blog comment* all week!

        *That I’ve read ;-)

  9. The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy
    February 5, 2012

    I have no insightful counter to this post. I just wonder why your graphs always in VGA color?