For God’s Sake!! Do Something!

As an avid runner/athlete, I am always planning my days, weeks, months around workouts and or races. If you are a runner, swimmer, triathlete, soccer player or whatever, you know what I am talking about.

If you are fairly serious about your athletic endeavors, you plan your bed time, your meals, your “going out” availibilty and everything else around your sport.

You often hear your “non-active” friends calling you “lame” or a “health nut”, or “obsessive”. But, you generally just smile or nod or make some half-ass joke to appease them. All the while, you are thinking about your “long run”, your “tempo run” or something along those lines.

You will often hear older co-workers, friends or familiy say “Yeah, when I was your age, I was thin and in shape too..but just wait until you are 30, 40..blah, blah, blah”. They’ll say “I use to run 6 miles a day, EVERYDAY, too!!”

It isn’t uncommon to hear things like “I would love to workout or run everyday, but I just DON’T HAVE THE TIME!!!”

So, on that note…I am going to stop all you Debbie Downers right now!!!

First off, I am not saying to go out and sign up for a marathon tomorrow…Hell, for that matter, I am not even saying to take up running at all. I will say, running is one of my passions..but, I know it isn’t for everyone.

But, what I am saying is this. You CAN DO SOMETHING!!! That something could be going out and walking the dogs for an hour every could be taking the kids to the park and running around with them…it could be taking up swimming, or joining a soccer league, go for a bike ride with the hubby/wife, roller blade on the boardwalk..OR, you could start running!

I know, I know!! You just don’t have the time!! Or, it’s easy for ME because I have always been thin and have always loved being active!!

Nope, that is far from true! There was a time (in the very recent past) that I was a heavy drinker, a smoker and very unhealthy. In the span of about 3 years, I went from 150 pounds to 218! I didn’t even own a pair of running shoes at the time.

I was unhappy with my health, my life and generally everything else…But, once Crystle and I moved to Va. Beach in April 2010, we started making some changes…not overnight, but gradually we started becoming more active…we changed up our lifestyle and over time, we started seeing some positive results.

Now, 2 years later, I am back down to 155 pounds…I have found the love of running again (as has Crystle). We are constantly on the go..enjoying as much time outdoors as we can.

Aside from my own personal testimony and weight loss, there are a few others in our running group who have had the same success story through running. Several of them were big time out of shape and were extremely unhealthy…But, with a few changes, they have completely transformed themselves.

So, does this mean I have given up everything I love to live the life of a Running Monk?? No way!! I still enjoy my beer and my Buffalo Wings..but, just not everyday of the week like before.

I also find little ways to do some extra things that I know add up. For instance, when I am working over at the Naval Station Norfolk base, I purposely park outside the gate and walk to the ship that I am working on. This ends up being a 3 mile walk (round trip). It takes me 30 minutes each way and done over the course of a week, adds up to 15 miles of walking (that’s a couple thousand calories burned right there).

In the grand scheme of things, you are not only hurting yourself by being out of shape and overweight. You are also hurting your family and friends. If you don’t care much about your own health and diet, chances are, you don’t care much about your spouses, or your childrens…This ends up being a vicious cycle that can be passed on for generations.

Your health, or lack there of, is always a joke until you get some disturbing news from the doctor. You can joke all you want, but NOBODY really wants high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. Not to mention, many of your health issues are hereditary and can be passed on to your children.

My good friend Thomas Hicks has MS, an Afib and currently has a tumor blocking up one entire lung..Oh, and he also found out yesterday that he has a serious sinus problem that will also require surgery in the near future….BUT, GUESS WHAT? He will be out there tonight running with the rest of us!

For those of you who have a problem believing what I am talking about…I have included some before and after photos of myself and some of my running buds to prove that changes can be made.

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So, instead of just wishing and hoping..get out there and get going! Take a walk, dust off the treadmill that has become a clothes rack, or air up the tires on the bike that has been sitting in the garage for 12 years. But, whatever you do, just DO SOMETHING!!

The Week in Training and Memorial Day Weekend

So, this past week/weekend was one of the best weeks in training so far. I managed to get in several quality training runs, as well as a solid 10k performance at the ERR. Counting the race, I ended up with 32 running miles and over 8+ hours of aqua jogging and swimming (normally, I will do a combination/mix of aqua jogging and swimming each session, with more of one than the other). Below is how my week looked.

Monday- 1:30 hours aqua jogging/swimming. Evening- 8x600meters @ 10k pace.

Tuesday- 1:45 hours aqua jogging/swimming. 2k, 1600, 1200, 800, 2×400 (all done on the track)

Wednesday – 1:30 hours aqua jogging/swimming. 4 mile progression (8:36, 6:40, 6:26, 6:18)

Thursday – 1:30 hours aqua jogging/swimming. 6 mile tempo with hills (ran at about 85-90% max HR)

Friday – OFF

Saturday – ERR 10k (37:14).

Sunday – 2 hours aqua jogging/swimming

The ERR 10k turned out to be another great race. This was my 3rd year doing the ERR and it is what I call my “Anniversary Race”. Meaning that, the ERR 2010 was my first official race in over 8+ years upon returning to running. That race, I ran 49:00 and was still weighing 185+ pounds. This year, I managed to go 37:15 (very happy with that having just come off a lingering achilles injury), I cracked the top 10 and won my age group.  So, I have managed to come pretty far in just two years.

As always, the ERR was a great turnout! Got to see and race against many of my fellow HRR friends , as well as many other local running pals. To nobody’s surprise, Ryan Carroll won the overall title for I think the 47th time 😉 and Renee High  easily won the women’s top spot.

The Memorial Day Weekend was a great time as well. Aside from the ERR 10k, Crystle and I spent majority of the weekend hanging out and relaxing with friends.

Friday was a “guys night” out with Rob, Ricky, David and Aric. Then on Saturday, Crystle and I hungout with Rob/Carly and Ben/Hannah down at the oceanfront.

Sunday we did some “chores” around the house and then hungout with Micky and Sarah that evening.

Monday, although it was technically THIS week was filled with a great morning of training with Rob, Renee, Kris , Thomas and Jose. We had a killer track workout in which everyone did AWESOME!! We had some damn speedy splits!

Later Monday evening, Crystle and I joined Rob and Carly for a little cookout and beach time at Thomas’s place. Had a lot of fun and good times.

Finally, the long weekend came to a close…BOOO!!

So, with a great week of training and an even greater holiday weekend behind me, it’s onto another great week of running and life!! See you all out there!

When It All Comes Together

Lately I have been getting in some really great training runs. It seems that over the past month or so, every run I do, turns out to be awesome! In the past, I would be happy if I could get in 1 or 2 really quality runs..with majority of the runs just being something that I slogged through and completed.

So, what has changed? Several things in fact! I have adopted a new training plan, that focuses only on QUALITY and not QUANTITY. I no longer have a set amount of mileage to run each week. Instead, I design my workouts around different levels of intensity and I let the distance fall where it may. For intance, I might do a 30 minute run, first 10 minutes as a warmup, then the next 20 minutes as hard as I can go. So, based on level of effort for that particular day, I might get anyhere from 4-5+ miles depending on how I feel.

Now, I focus on 4 key runs per week. I do a speed session, two tempos (one shorter and with hills, one longer and slower) and a hard long run. I don’t necessarily worry about what particular day I do these workouts on, I just go by how my body feels and how it responds to the workload. I have completely cut out “junk”, “recovery” and “easy” running miles. I have since replaced those runs with workouts in the pool. In between hard running days, I have incorporated various intensity swims and aqua jogging sessions. Keep in mind though that these pool sessions are not just frolicking in the water….most of these pool sessions are rather intense.

Aside from the running, itself, I have also incorporated some x-fit/x-training. Other than the pool, I also do two core/strength workouts per week and lots of dynamic stretching routines.

In addition to the x-fit/x-training and swimming, I have also changed my nutrition plan. I have eliminated coffee from my diet (several reasons for this) and I have really increased my protein intake. The drastic increase in protein has significantly improved my recovery time and soreness between hard workouts. I also make a “recovery cocktail” prior to bed each night and it has been a life saver in terms of recovery. Yesterday for example, I ran one of my toughest speed sessions in over 10 years and have no soreness what-so-ever (and I mean that 100%).

Another added benefit of the aqua jogging is that I am much more flexible now and my form and my stride have opened up and I have become much more efficient again (just like back in the day). I am also seeing less and less “niggles” or “kinks”. Before, I would often wake up just wondering “what’s going to be out of whack today?”. But now, the majority of those nagging kinks have vanished and I actually look forward to every workout now..there is no longer that feeling of just HAVING to do it and get it over with. These days, every workout is for a specific reason and every one has a purpose..No more just slogging through so I can hit my 30, 40, 50..blah, blah, blah miles per week.

I am in the middle of Week # 5 on the new plan and so far so good. I have yet to find a hole in this new training plan and it is also working rather well for a few other training partners who have adopted it as their own plan.

Sometimes, you have to be willling to step outside the box in order to progress and produce results. Just because “everyone else is doing it”, doesn’t mean it is right or that it will work for you. Conventional wisdom isn’t always the best plan. All great innovators and pioneers get laughed at early on….that is until they change the world!!!

Fill ‘Er Up!!

As an athlete, do you find yourself coming up a bit short in your workouts and races? Do you often find yourself “hitting the wall” when exercising for extended periods of time?

Well, maybe it has to do with how you are “fueling”. Just as the combustible engine needs fuel, so does the “human engine”. But, what type of fuel is the burning question?

I know I always like to compare the body to a machine or an engine and that’s because, I see the body in the same manner. Take your car for example. If it runs on gasoline, you don’t want to put diesel or kersosine in it, do you? Of course not, because the engine would pretty much be useless once the foreign fuel is detected. For the engine to be most efficient, the fuel needs to be as clean and pure as possible, free from debri and outside deposits.

The same holds true for our bodies. We are much more efficient when we supply our body with the right types of fuel, at the right times.

So, what is the “right” fuel? This is where things can get complicated, although they do not have to. In years past, our ancestors didn’t have to worry too much about WHAT they ate. For the most part, they were limited to the foods that were native and plentiful to their region. Not to mention, they really only ate what was provided by mother nature.

But now, modern civilization as an over abundance of “food” (too much so in fact). A diet that once consisted of fresh meats, veggies, fruits and whole grains, has since been replaced by a plethura of man made filler foods. Instead of having just a handful of menu options, we now have tens of thousands. Our wholesome diets have now been replaced with Skittles, Doritos and Hot Pockets (not food, but chemicals with a pretty label).

Our current society is sitting somewhere around the 60% mark for being overweight, and it’s only getting worse. We have become a society that bases it’s food choices solely on convenience. The mindset of “what is easier” is starting to trump “what is better”.

So, with all of these convenient food options readily available, how do we chose the right foods over the wrong?

A couple years ago, when I started making a conscious decision to improve my diet and lose some weight (I was 218 lbs at the time), I came up with a nutrition plan that I am still on today. Instead of trying to go on some fad “diet”, I knew that what I needed was a lifestyle change. With this approach, instead of trying to force myself to stay on a diet, I just made the changes that I knew I could stick with long term (or for life).

I started paying very close attention to nutrition facts, but more importantly the INGREDIENTS!! I came to the conclusion that I would severely limit “man made”  and packaged foods. If I did choose a man made or packaged food, I looked for those that limited processing and those with minimal added preservatives and chemicals. If I picked up a box of rice, I wanted to see that the ingredients contained RICE, not rice + 14 other ingredients that I could not pronounce.

By sticking to this plan, I am now down to 155 pounds and quite possibly in the best shape of my life. Now, when Crystle and I grocery shop, we shop only for the week and fill our fridge and cupboards with mostly fresh foods and the occassional dry and canned goods.

I know many people believe that eating healthy is bland and also EXPENSIVE!!, but it doesn’t have to be. We will typically spend between $50-$80 per week and we have a variety of delicious meals to chose from.

With both of us being very active individuals, we need a lot of good, clean fuel to get us through our day to day life and activities (running, swimming, x-fit, etc). I myself have even went as far as giving up runner staples such as Gatorade, energy gels, Red Bulls, etc. I actually now make my own all natural Performance Drink. We try to minimize the amount of processed garbage that goes into our bodies on a daily basis. As they say “garbage in, garbage out.”

Here is a look at a typical weekly grocery list from Trader Joes

Skim milk


Fresh fruits (oranges, pineapple, strawberries, etc)

Fresh Veggies (asparagus, tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, etc)

Canned Beans (black, pinto, kidney)

Grains (rice medley, quinoa, cous-cous, risotto)

Dried Pasta

Yogurt (Greek) or Kefir

Peanut Butter (all natural)

Oatmeal (multi-grain)

Pizza dough (for homemade pizza)

Lean meats (chiken, hamburger)

Frozen fruits (for smoothies)

100% Fruit Juices (carrot, beet, orange)

We will typically try to prepare several meals on Sunday, so that we can use for our lunches throughout the week. This past Sunday, Crystle made a really awesome homeade veggie pizza that will be used as part of her lunch for the proceeding 2-3 days. I like to prepare lots of natural and quick foods. I typically tend to eat lots of fruits, hardboilded eggs and oatmeal throughout the day. I like to stay with foods that my body can easily digest before my evening workouts. Generally, I only eat meat once a day (with dinner, post workout).

Instead of focusing on the Big 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), I try to focus on several smaller meals (snacks) spread across several hours. I will try to have one of these snacks (100-250 calories), every 90-120 minutes.

A typical day will look something like this

10 minutes after getting out of bed, a smoothie (1 banana, 1 cup strawberries, 8oz skim milk, 8oz carrot/orange juice, 1 scoop whey protein)

-9:00am- Bowl of fruit and 2 hardboiled eggs

-10:30-11:00am – Fruit, oatmeal, salad, beans or a grain

-12:00-1:00pm- Fruit, cottage cheese or yogurt

-2:00-4:00pm- Performance Snack, taken about 1-2 hours before evening workout (1 cup oatmeal mixed with 2tbsp of peanut butter and 2 tbsp honey).

-Immediately after workout- (whey protein shake, with added electrolytes)

-8:00pm- Grilled veggies (asparagus, brussle sprouts, endamame), Chicken breast, beans (black or pinto)

-Right before bed- (cassein protein powder, skim milk).

Now, let me be clear when I say this. I do not starve myself, nor do I ever worry about HOW MUCH I eat. My primary concern is WHAT I eat. If you are highly active, you need not concern yourself too much with calorie counting. But, if you are one of those overly parnoid types, or one who struggles with weight issues, then you can easily upload something like to help track your “calories IN” vs. “calories OUT”.

Also, if you concentrate on eating well 80-90% of the time and you splurge a bit here and there, dont’ worry! You should not totally deprive yourself. Don’t be afraid to have that cold beer, slice of chocalate cake, ice cream, etc. A hard workout or a hard week of workouts should be rewarded.

As long as you are consciousness about the types of foods you eat, you will no doubt be doing yourself a valuable service.

So make some changes, fuel up properly for those tough workouts and honor your temple with some quality food choices. Oh and remember, “If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn!” (a line from Once A Runner).

The Chronicles of AQUAMAN!!!

So, do you like the water? Do you love to workout? Then why not hop in the pool? No, I am not talking about your traditional swimming here..I am talking about “AQUA JOGGING”, “POOL RUNNING” or as a friend of mine likes to call it, “POGGING” (that’s a combination or Jogging and Pool).

Aqua jogging has been around for quite sometime and was first introduced as a form of physical therapy. When the word aqua jogging is brought up, most people think of a group of swimsuit clad grandmothers, splashing around in the pool as a form of exercise that will not break a hip 😉

But, more and more, athletes, coaches and personal trainers are starting to see the benefits of aqua jogging to be more than just a way to rehab during an injury. Over the years, there has been many studies done on the benefits of aqua jogging. It has been proven, that an athlete (in these cases, runners) can maintain and or improve their fitness, by doing nothing but aqua jogging alone. In many cases, the injured runner will spend several weeks in the pool, come back to land running and immediately PR after several weeks of intensive aqua jogging.

Personally, I had heard of aqua jogging a few times in my life, but never gave much thought about it. Then, during a recent “web surfing” search for ways to cross-train while injured, I came across many articles discussing the benefits of aqua jogging.

I mentioned this to my friend and training partner, Rob Hunter, and he said that his former coach would have his high school track and cross country teams get in the pool a few times per week. He said that it was a great training tool and that he had forgotten all about it until I brought it up. He said he even had an aqua jogging belt, sitting at home in his closet somewhere.

So, the next day, Rob purchased a 2nd jogging belt and the both of us headed to the pool to try our hand at aqua jogging. The instant I put on the belt and hopped into the deep end of the pool, I was in love. After a few short minutes in the pool, I could feel my muscles loosening up and the cool water had a very soothing and relaxing affect on my legs. I also realized, that contrary to popular belief, you CAN get the heart rate escalated and the breathing can become taxed if you put in a bit of effort.

After this first session in the pool, I figured that since I would be running the Boston Marathon the next week, I would just use the aqua jogging as a way to taper and stay off the roads. So, that week, I did 5 hours total, aqua jogging in the pool. By the time I left for Boston, my hips, and legs were feeling more refreshed than they ever have leading up to a race.

Then, after Boston, the next day in fact. I returned to the pool and continued aqua jogging the remainder of the week. My legs recovered very quickly and any of the residual soreness/stiffness of a marathon, was gone by Thursday (I ran the Boston on Monday).

So you are saying, “Ok, it works great for recovery, but what about maintaining or building fitness”??? So, here is my answer for that question!

Since the Boston Marathon (and actually since one week after the Shamrock on March 18th), I have only been averaging about 30 miles of actual running and have been putting in about 6 hours of aqua jogging/swimming each week.

This past Monday, I easily ran the fastest track speedwork session that I have ran in over 10 years. After completing 6 x 400m’s at mile race pace, 8 x 200m’s at sub mile race pace..I was still able to run a relaxed 5:08 mile..then ran an all out 400m, with Ben Riley, in 63 seconds to finish the workout.

So is the aqua jogging working for me? I would say it is!

Aside from being able to maintain our fitness and recover better between workouts, Rob and I (my fellow mad scientist training partner) have both noticed a huge change in our muscle definition and our body fat (aqua jogging burns about 5 calories more per minute than running). We have only been in the pool going on 4 weeks now and we have both dropped body fat, weight and have both seen significant changes in our muscle development. In addition to, we have also drastically improved our flexibility and are noticing that we are less sore between workouts and that we are able to recover at a much faster rate than what we were prior to getting in the pool.

To pass the time and mix it up, Rob and I vary our workouts in the pool. Some days, we just get in the deep end with our flotation belts and do something equivalent to a long “steady state” or “long run”. Other days, we will do a combination of deep water running and shallow water running..these are the days that simulate “tempo” or “speedwork”. At the end of each workout, we will also spend 15-20 minutes doing a dynamic stretching routine (in the water). In the pool, we pay close attention to our form and breathing and are constantly working on improving both.

Here is a sample week of what I have been doing:

Monday – 60-90 minutes aqua jogging / Speed workout on the track (6-8 miles)

Tuesday – 60-90 minutes aqua jogging / Easy recovery run in the park (6-8 miles)

Wednesday – 60-90 minutes aqua jogging / Core/Strengthening workout at Trashmore

Thursday – 60-90 minutes aqua jogging / Intense hill workout at tempo pace (Trashmore)

Friday – 60-90 minutes aqua jogging

Saturday – High Intensity Long Run (currently 10-12 miles)

Sunday – 120-180 minutes Long aqua jogging session

So, as you can see, I am only doing 4 runs per week, but am spending a lot of time in the pool. On the days that say 60-90 minutes aqua jogging..usually that means I will do 30 minutes of mixed stroke swimming and then will do an additional 60 minutes of aqua jogging.

Now I am not saying that aqua jogging should completely take over in place of your running. But, I believe that it should be incorporated into every training plan, for every runner. I believe aqua jogging can be particularly useful for those returning from an injury, those coming off a high mileage training cycle, those tapering for or recovering from a recent race. I also believe it to be very beneficial during the days that it might be extremely hot and or humid out.

To start with, replace one or two of your “easy” or “recovery” runs with the same time spent in the pool. Then, as you get accustomed to aqua jogging, either increase the amount of time in the pool, or increase the frequency of trips to the pool.

In conclusion, will aqua jogging have you breaking world records? Probably not. But, will it compliment and help your running..will it aide flexibility, strengthen weak musles and improve recovery time ? For sure!!

So what are you waiting for? Get wet and get fit!!!

Below are a few good links on the benefits of aqua jogging.

Perhaps, Less IS More!!

As many of you know, I was sidelined with an achilles injury this past Janurary. Prior to the injury, I was averaging around 65-70 miles per week running, with a couple 80 mile weeks thrown in there as well. I was strictly running and that’s it! I was doing no cross-training, no swimming, no biking, no core stengthening…JUST RUNNING!

Since the injury, nearly four months have passed. While recovering from the injury and trying to maintain fitness for the Shamrock and Boston marathons, I decided (mainly out of necessity), to start incorporating some cross-training (biking, roller blading, swimming).

For the two months prior to the Shamrock, my biggest weekly mileage total, was a whopping 22 and my longest long run for those two months was a staggering 14 mile run at a blistering 8:48 pace!

But, because I couldn’t run, I was cycling and rollerblading like a madman! I was averaging about 120 miles per week on the bike and about 50-60 miles per week of rollerblading.

As any runner can tell you, coming back from an injury is always a bit of a psychological challenge. Regardless of how much cross training a runner can do, they are always a little “gun shy” when it’s time to race again for the first time. Going into a marathon with 22 mile training weeks and a long run of 14 miles, it was safe to say, I was not overly conifident in what might happen (or what wouldn’t happen rather).

But, somehow, I managed to not only get through the 26.2 miles at Shamrock, I also set a new PR in the process. How could this be?

This really got me to thinking….If I could put in substantially less mileage (running wise), not beat myself up as badly in the process and still run as good or better than before…then WHY would I want to continue beating myself up to run some crazy high mileage weeks?

After Shamrock, I decided I would try a totally new approach to training and would be my own guinea pig in the experiment. It also just so happened that a friend and training partner (Rob Hunter), also decided that he liked the “less is more” training approach and has since joined me in this new training endeavor. Instead of hours on the trails and roads together, we now spend hours in the pool aqua jogging and swimming.

Now, it is certainly worth noting that perhaps Shamrock was just a fluke and that my level of fitness from the months prior had carried over and allowed me to salvage a quality finishing time for the race.

I had tested my endurance, but had yet to test any of my speed off of this reduced running plan. So, this past weekend, several of the HRR gang were signed up and running the Cinco De Mayo 5k. A couple of the boys wanted to go sub 18:00 for the first time and they had set a goal of 17:45. I mentioned to them that I would go out and set the pace at 17:45 and if that is what they wanted to run, then that is exactly where we’d be. I didn’t register for the race, so I was treating is as a workout/pacing duties.

Ultimately, only one of the boys (Logan Johnson) went under the 18:00 mark, he ran a 17:55 and won the race. I finished 1 seoncd off pace and crossed the line in 17:46.

I was really happy with this run because I was actually on cruise control the entire time..the pace felt super comfortable and I had plenty left in the tank had this been a real race for me.

So, what does any of this mean? To me, it means that as a runner, we can maintain and or improve our fitness and running performance by incorporating more cross training and less weekly running mileage.

In the past, with the higher weekly running volume, I always felt beat up and never felt like I was recovered all that well. I was ridiculously weak in the core area and I had about zero flexibility and muscle elasticity.

But, with the new training plan, I am getting quality over quantity, I am using the pool workouts as both a way to build stamina, as well as recovery. With the addition of the aqua jogging, swimming and core work, I have seen huge improvements in strength, flexibility and recovery time between hard workouts.

So, what exactly have I been doing with my time? Below is last weeks totals and types of workouts.

32 miles running (4 workouts, 2 Speed, 1 Hill/Tempo, 1 Recovery jog)

5 miles swimming (4 workouts, 2 x 2000m swimming, 2 x 2000m aqua jogging)

15 miles walking (used as recovery and dynamic stretching).

1 Total Body Core Strengthening (90 minutes total)

So am I admonishing high mileage training plans?? Not at all! I certainly believe that higher mileage plans have their place and can be very beneficial. However, I also believe that the runner should build their body to handle the high mileage workload. Those who run the super high mileage (usually reserved for elite or world class runners) have done so through years and years of gradual buildup. Their muscles, bones, joints, etc. have adapted and have become accustomed to the high mileage weeks. None of them went out and dropped 80-100 mile weeks right out of the gates.

I am currently reading Eamonn Coghlan’s book “Chairman of the Boards”. Eamonn, for those who don’t know him was a former 5000 meter World Champion and is a sub 3:50 miler. He was also the first man over 40 years of age to go sub 4:00 for the mile.  During his freshman and sophmore years at Villanova, he trained at a volume of 40-50 miles per week and did not hit his first 100 mile week until nearly 10 years later when he started moving up from the mile and started training for the 5k.

So, even the world class runners do a slow and gradual buildup.

Essentially, I believe there are many roads that lead to the same destination. Whether you advocate the high mileage, or are more of a low mileage, higher intensity type..or somewhere in between. Nothing is necessarily right or wrong with any of these approaches…but, regardless of the plan that you choose, allow your body to adapt, build the strength first and then play around with the proper amount of mileage based on your abilities and what you can handle.

More than anything else, you have to be patient. As they say, “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day”..and neither is a runner. Once you decide on a training plan, you must constantly evaluate your improvement, setbacks and how your body handles the workload. Overnight success is not an option and the runner must understand that big goals take big sacrifices and big commitments.

If you are smart, patient and observent, it is likely you can and will achieve your goals. Also, if you have been running to a certain training plan for a period of time and are either seeing no improvements or regression…do not get upset and immediately throw the plan out the window. Step back, look through your training logs and see if you cannot pinpoint the cause of the setbacks. Often times, a runner gets upset with the plan, when in fact, the plan is just fine. Perhaps your nutrition, sleep schedule, stress levels, etc. are the problems and not the training itself.

Remember, there is more to running than just running!!

Running With The Pack

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For anyone who knows me very well, they know how much I advocate “group training”. For the 2 years I have been part of Hampton Roads Runners, I have been preaching the importance of training with the “pack”.

Perhaps my compulsion comes from always being a part of a group. As a runner in high school, college and the Navy, I have for the most part, by and large, always ran with a group. From time to time, I like to get out on a solo run to clear my head…but, the most fun and enjoyment for me, comes from running with the herd.

Being a part of a group has so many benefits. The group holds you accountable, where on your own, you may stumble. It’s much easier to roll out of bed for a run when you know you have people waiting on you.

Running in a group will always keep you on your toes and keep you striving for excellence. The energy and aura of the group will pull you through even the toughest of runs…It’s not a coincedence that a good majority of your “best” runs are while running shoulder to shoulder with your running buds.

Then, (this is my favorite part of group running) there is the always comical, interesting and just down right crazy conversations that are had while running with a group. It’s amazing the topics of discussion that will come up during a 2 hour training run. Topics that are typically taboo end up being open for discussion in the middle of a run. You also learn a great deal about your training partners if you run with them enough. It seems that every training run, I learn something new about one of our runners…something that they might never mention in a non-running atmosphere.

I also believe (and this is only my opinion), that humans are meant to work together as a pack. Just as the animal kingdom prospers in herds, packs, flocks, etc., we humans need and desire the same thing. For thousands of years, humans have evolved together as a group. We rose to the top of the food chain by working together…knowing that the pack is more successful as a whole. If you watch a flock of geese in flight, you will always see them in the “flying V” formation, because somewhere along their evolutionary path, they realized that they could fly further, faster and more efficiently if they used the strength of the group, rather than their own individual strength. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. Each bird takes it’s turn being in the front, falling back when they get tired. In this way, the geese can fly for long periods of time before they have to stop and rest.

Then, there is the amazing support system you acquire from running with a group. Your running buds will be there to cheer you on, push you through tough workouts and be there to console you if you are injured, in a rut, or had a bad race.

So, do I think that a runner should never lace up their shoes and go out for a solo run? Not at all! Sometimes, we need to run alone to get our minds right and to ponder certain things about our training, our relationships, lives, etc.

But, I do believe that as a runner, you will experience greater succes, more enjoyable times and will develop some great and lasting friendships if you start running with a group.

Perhaps group running isn’t for everyone..but I know for me, there are absolutely no desires to ever get away from my group training mindset. If you ever see me on the roads or trails, there is a high probability that I will be “Running With The Pack.”

Running With Injury

As a runner, it is almost guaranteed that you will experience some form of running related injury throughout your running career. The extent of severity of the injury depends on many things.

As I have mentioned before, runners are a very fickle and stubborn breed. We don’t ask for much in life, we only want to be able to run as often and as far as we want, without any pain or injury. You would think this would be a simple request that could easily be granted by the Running Gods…but, sadly, we all too often find ourselves taking time off from running, having setbacks, experiencing chronic pain, etc, etc, etc!!

Runners, particularly long distance runners, have exceptionally high tolerances for pain. It is a valuable trait to have, but is often times our “Achilles Heel” (pun intended). From the moment we start running longer distances, we just figure that “pain” is just par for the course…We are “supposed” to have little aches here, or muscle stiffness/tightness there…Nearly any runner you talk to will tell you that they often get out of bed and do the “3 step test”. This is where you get out of bed in the morning, stand up, take three steps forward to access what kind of damage has been done from the previous days mileage. This test will determine how you handle the rest of your day.

But, before you go assuming that runners are just a bunch of pain loving junkies, you must realize, it is not totally our faults.

You see, us runners just like to control the things within our capabilty and leave everything else to those “professionals”. We can control the shoes we wear, the miles we run and races we enter…We don’t really want to worry about the bicomechanics of the human body and all that other medical “mumbo jumbo”..WE JUST WANT TO RUN!!!!

But, as we all know, running comes with it’s overly eager to “wear out it’s welcome” baggage. If you run long enough, you will no doubt experience one or all of the following; soreness, stiffness, shin splints, knee pain, calf strain, plantar fascia…and the list goes on!

So, if all of this is the price to pay for running, why do we do it? Some run for fame and glory, others for weight control..some run to prevent boredom and to be a part of something…But, and this is just my opinion..I think we all run in search of that “PERFECT RUN”..The run where you go out there and experience not a single discomfort..where you feel like you could run laps around the globe as easily as you could run to the fridge and back. It’s what keeps us coming back..the joy of finding that perfect rythm and then being able to repeat it again and again.

Okay, so runners have pain and experience injury…Where am I going with all this?? Hold on, I am getting there!

So lets take Runner # 1 (we’ll call him Bob).

Bob has been a long time runner, has ran a number of marathons and numerous shorter distance road races over the years. Bob has had his fair share of aches and pains, but has never been setback for any significant injury. However, for the past week, Bob has been eperiencing an annoying dull pain in the back of his knee everytime he goes out for his evening run. He figures it to be no big deal and continues running through the discomfort. He takes his NSAIDS (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflmmatory Drugs…Ibuprofen, Aspirin, etc.), he goes home and ices his leg, does his stretches..But, the pain is still there. What is Bob to do?

For the most part here, Bob is doing the “right” thing (all the things he has heard his whole life)..Never once would it have occured to him that perhaps the knee pain is actually being caused by another troubled area. His knee pain could be caused by weak hamstrings or glutes..Perhaps one leg is shorter than the other…He may have muscle imbalance or weakness elsewhere, thus causing strain in his knee.

So, it isn’t really Bob’s fault that he is addressing the knee pain as a problem within his knee…He just doesn’t know otherwise and therefore is not able to get to the root of the problem.

Now, we have Runner # 2 (we’ll call her Jane).

Jane, has just recently started running within the past year. She has really started to enjoy it and even joined a really cool running group

The Endurance Project

Virginia Beach, VA
543 Spartans

This is a coached group that focuses on all things fitness. This group is for runners, cyclists, fitness gurus, cross fitters, obstacle course racers, SPARTANS and anyone who …

Next Meetup

**All Skill Levels** Speed/Interval training at Virginia Bea…

Monday, Mar 16, 2015, 6:15 PM
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She has been competing in weekly road races and has been peer pressured by her group to start training for a marathon. For the first time ever, she is consistently running 40+ miles per week..She is getting faster and just loves seeing those fast paces for every training run. She has 4 months before the upcoming marathon and just knows she is going to “crush” it..She is on cloud nine!

Then, all of sudden, she starts getting a weird pain in her shin…She has heard of other runners talking about the dreaded “shin splints” but had never experienced them before. Every single run, she is experiencing pain..but she guts through it because she can’t miss any key training runs.

She ices, she buys compression socks, she takes epsom salt baths and is doing every stretch imaginable..but, nothing is working..the pain just won’t go away. This goes on for several weeks when finally, she is forced to miss a day of running because the pain has become unbearable. Distraught, she makes an appointment to see a specialist. After an MRI, it appears that she has stress fractures in both shins and is told to take a substantial amount of time off.

As per the doctor’s orders, she stops running and starts “aqua jogging” and going to physcial therapy…After a few weeks, she is cleared to run again, but told to “Go Easy”!!

Another week passes and Jane’s shins are feeling great and she is feeling strong. She jumps right back into 40 mile weeks and is cranking out track intervals, tempos and weekend long runs…She had a setback, but is off and running again…Jane so happy!!! Three more weeks go by and Jane is still cranking out the intense training and loving every minute of it…But, the morning after a hard track session, she starts to experience the same shin pain again.

In the end, Jane ends up battling back and forth for months with this ongoing shin issue..Ultimately, she misses the marathon she had planned in the fall and is devastated.

So what did Jane do wrong here?

Jane was so caught up in her new found love of running and her continued success in the sport, that she never really allowed her body to adapt properly to the new workload. She developed shin splints, but rather than correct the root cause of them, she merely took a little time off, then came back full force, only to end up injured again.

So, if we are having knee or shin pain, we shouldn’t address the knee and or the shin? Not necessarily! Sometimes the area of pain is also the cause..but often times, the area of pain is just the tip of the iceberg…the underlying problem is usually something entirely different.

This is where the Dry Bones lyrics come into importance

“The toe bone connected to the heel bone,

The heel bone connected to the foot bone,

The foot bone connected to the leg bone,

The leg bone connected to the knee bone,

The knee bone connected to the thigh bone,

The thigh bone connected to the back bone,

The back bone connected to the neck bone,

The neck bone connected to the head bone,”

Like a finely tuned engine, all the muscles, joints and bones of the body work together as one to allow us our movements. It goes without saying that most of us do not have an extensive background in anatomy, physiology, or biomechanics…Therefore, we pretty much only know the basics of how all of the components of the body work together.

What the hell is a Psoas, a piriformis or a sacroiliac joint??

A psoas, as it turns out, is not a Greek God..but in fact, it is a muscle that is mostly responsible for the flexion and rotation of the hip joint. I guess this would be important to runners, huh?

What is a trigger point? Hint, it has nothing to do with firearms!

“Trigger points, also known as trigger sites or muscle knots, are described as hyperirritable spots in skeletal muscle that are associated with palpable nodules in taut bands of muscle fibers.[1] Trigger point practitioners believe that palpable nodules are small contraction knots[ambiguous] and a common cause of pain. Compression of a trigger point may elicit local tenderness, referred pain, or local twitch response. The local twitch response is not the same as a muscle spasm. This is because a muscle spasm refers to the entire muscle contracting whereas the local twitch response also refers to the entire muscle but only involves a small twitch, no contraction.”

If you don’t get trigger points addressed and or taken care of, they can lead to some serious injury, muscle imbalance and impeded performance and functionality of the muscles and joints.

Modern Sports Medicine has come a LONG way over the past several years and much of the past “sound medical practice” has since been debunked. In the past, it was common to hear a doctor to tell a runner to “stop running” once they were experiencing pain somewhere.

Now days, we are starting to learn much about many new practices that can correct, fix and alleviate sports related injuries and trauma. Practices such as ART (Active Release Technique), Graston, Myofascial Release, Deep Tissue Massage, Aqua Therapy, Dry Needling, etc, are now becoming more main stream and more understood. Some of these practices can have an injured athlete up and performing again in no time, with very minimal set back in training.

Because of medical professionals who have “thought outside the box”, the rest of us are now discovering new ways to get healthy and stay active..WITHOUT PAIN!!

Below, I have included some links to some good reading material. These various articles address in more detail some of the practices I discussed above.

As an advocate for pain free running, I want to remind you all how importance it is to take care of your body and to have routine and scheduled maintenance done. By maintenance, I mean, getting regular massages, doing hot/cold therapy on tired muscles, getting chiropractic adjustments from time to time…In the same way that your car needs to be taken in for it’s scheduled maintenance..So does the human body. Take care of your body and it will in turn take care of you.

AS A DISCLAIMER: If the above stories about Jane or Bob sound very familiar, please do not think I was picking on YOU…Just so happens, many of you reading this can relate to Jane and Bob…LOL!

Also, I know of some great practitioners of the above mentioned practices. If you would like more information on some recommended massage therapists, ART, Chiropractic and Myofascial professionals, please let me know and I can put you in contact with them. Many are covered under your insurance policy.