Do You Run Everyday?

Every runner gets asked, do you run everyday?

 

For some the answer is yes. For most of us it is no.

 

To some degree I aim to run everyday. Looking back through my training logs I definitely haven’t achieved it. Would I be a better runner if I did?

 

 

Streakers

 

It can be an amazing achievement to run for a year or longer without missing a single day. For some it is a goal unto itself. For others it is a means to an end.

 

I’ve been impressed with the efforts of Steve Dinneen. His days off have led to some amazing results.

 

 

 

Of course there is Ron Hill. Longest Running Streak Ends At 52 Years, 39 Days

 

A Day Off

 

On the flip side some have achieved sensational results by incorporating a day off running. Paul Radcliffe was known to have a day off running every 8 days.

The day off gives the body a chance to adapt and repair itself from all the hard days of running.

 

If you take a day off running every week, it is 52 days without running every year. Will you benefit from taking this time off? Will more running be better? I think the answer is very individual. It probably even changes according to where you are in your own fitness.

 

trail run

 

What Gets In The Way?

 

There are the typical excuses. We are all stretched with competing priorities. If you really want something you will make it a priority. It sounds simple, but so many people struggle to make that jump from wanting to doing. It may seem like we have to put running ahead of family and work. I don’t believe that’s the case. Instead we need to look at what goes around our priorities. Do you watch television? How much time do you spend scrolling through social media? Do you plan your food and shopping ahead of time? There are many ways to create more time to do what you want to do.

 

My main excuse is sleep. Being a shift worker it is easy for me to throw out I need to get my sleep in. The excuse is easily accepted by others. To do my job safely, I cannot be fatigued.  Inadvertently it has become my default excuse.

 

Turn it around. Sleep isn’t the problem. We all need good sleep. It is what I do around my shifts that gets in the way of sleep that is the problem. Get important things in your life done without delay. It will lead to improvement in your running. It is something I need to work on.

 

Will I aim to run everyday?

 

The short answer is no. The longer version is, I will aim to run almost very day. Putting a caveat that if I do take a day off it has to be for a significant reason. Not just because I’m not feeling it today.

 

Do you run everyday?

Hill Training: Easier Way To Get The Benefits

Hill training is often the nemesis of the runner. We can make great gains from it, but it is often hurts. It doesn’t have to be so difficult. In fact you can get many of the benefits of hill training by backing down the speed a bit and changing your focus.

 

Benefits Of Hill Training

Hill training provides so many benefits to your running. The obvious ones are:

  • increase in strength
  • increase in power
  • improved performance on hills

They are the no-brainers. Yet there is so much more, and it doesn’t just translate to the hills.

  • increased range of motion
  • improved foot landing in relation to centre of mass
  • improved toe off
  • increased strengthening and activation of posterior chain
  • improved running economy
  • increased mental focus
  • improved injury resistance

 

Speed Training Versus Hill Training

Training flat doesn’t improve hills.

Training hills improves your flats.

 

It’s a general guideline. Of course we can find exceptions to it, but it seems to apply well. There are plenty of runners who are exceptionally fast on the flats, but fall apart as soon as the gradient goes up.

 

Running fast on the flats provides many benefits. Some people have an injury history where flat intervals put them at risk. Substituting hill repeats can often reduce the chance of injury, but give many of the gains for these runners.

 

Hill Training Running Alive

Risks Of Hill Training

Of course hill training isn’t without it’s risks. Like anything in running, doing too much too soon is likely to cause problems. There are ways around this. Every runner is different. We all have different biomechanics, experience and injury history. There are however, some common risks that affect many runners.

 

Launching into near maximal efforts without a period of building up is likely to cause problems. Watch for tightness around the ankle and over the front (dorsum) of the foot. They are warning signs. Heed them.

 

Beware the descents. The impact when running downhill is higher, but that isn’t the only issue. Most of the impact is under eccentric load. This is when the muscle lengthens as it is applying force. More damage occurs with this type of loading. You can get great benefit, especially in fatigue resistance from down hill running. The risks are higher pushing down the slopes.

 

Find The Feeling

Hill training doesn’t have to be at your absolute limit. You will probably gain more benefits to keep the intensity under control. Running hill repeats right on your maximum is likely to limit your gains in the early stages of development. There is a time and place for maximal effort hill sprints, but there is more benefit in chasing form than intensity.

 

Practice makes permanent. So you want to be practising great form.

 

Use the following cues for good form:

  • run tall
  • drive down with your glutes and hamstrings
  • push your ankle and spring off your toes
  • aim for a feeling of snap and spring on toe off

 

The body likes to take the easy way out in the moment. If you haven’t convinced it that great technique is the best option, it will find ways to cut corners. It will cut your stride short, reduce your drive through your toe off, drop your hips and take out the hamstrings. None of this helps you go faster.

 

Make technique the most important element. Back off the volume and speed to ensure good form. Do not exceed your abilities to maintain form. You will make bigger gains in the long term with this approach. Your body will tell you when it can handle more.

 

Your Body Will Tell You

If you begin with just a few repetitions focussing on great technique your body will adapt. A little bit goes a long way. At first it often feels awkward. Keep chasing find a smooth, snap and spring in your up hill running. After a few sessions it will feel easier. You will probably be a little bit faster too. Take notice of this. Next time add a little bit more. Your body is ready.

 

When you add more pay attention to how you feel in added distance. If you lose the feeling of great form, then stay at that level. Anybody can write you should do 8 x 200m repeats in advance. It is hard to know how the body will behave for those repetitions. You might struggle with form and stop at 7. On the other hand you might be in the flow, with it feeling relatively easy. Maybe it is worth extending out to 10 repetitions.

 

If you pay attention hill training will highlight your form. Both good and bad. It gets easier to hold your technique over time. If you avoid just chasing the grind, you will find a flow that lets your body progress better. It can feel like you’re not doing enough at the beginning, but trust in your body. When it’s ready it is easier to progress.

 

 

How To Do It

There are many different ways to train hills. This approach will reap many benefits. The process will suit many looking to introduce hill training or coming back from an injury or lay off. It will certainly add to your performance if you are not regularly including hill work.

 

The Setup

Include a session weekly or every 4 to 8 days (depending on how you structure your training). Find a moderate hill. Nothing crazy steep. No bending over, hands on knees should be needed. It doesn’t have to be extra long either. Anything that takes somewhere between 40 seconds to 2 minutes to run up.

 

Perform your preferred style of warm up and get into your first up hill repeat.

 

The Repeat

Run up at a pace where you can maintain the technique given above:

  • run tall
  • drive down with your glutes and hamstrings
  • push your ankle and spring off your toes
  • aim for a feeling of snap and spring on toe off

This is a not a sprint. The effort should be solid. You need to be working, but the most important element is getting the technique right. You need to be able to maintain your form through the whole repeat. This will also exercise your ability to focus.

 

Once at the top. Turn around and very gently walk/jog back down to the bottom. Do it all over again.

 

And Again

How many times?

 

That depends on a lot of factors. If just introducing hills definitely err on the side of extreme caution. If at any point you find you have significant  difficulty maintaining form or your speed drops, then it is time to stop. That might only be 2 repeats. The idea is to practice great form. You will make great gains from doing this, but it is likely to feel slow going in the first couple of sessions.

 

After you have performed a couple of these sessions. You can look at progressing things. Add one or two repeats as along as you can hold your form. Mix up the hills you use. Go longer, shorter, steeper, milder. Variety will be good. Don’t look to force your speed. Over time your speed will come naturally as your body adapts. Better yet, this speed will be a result of efficiency and should naturally incorporate a good level of relaxation. Your speed will naturally go up.

 

It is not just what you do, but how you do it.

Ultra Marathon Races: Lessons Learnt

Why run an ultra marathon?

 

There is more to ultra marathon races than just completing the distance. More than just the finish line. Ultra marathons take you on a journey of discovery. You can learn a lot about yourself. Both good and bad.

 

This post isn’t the usual short tips and tricks on how to race an ultra marathon. These races can break us down to our core. The extras get stripped away. You can find out if you have what it takes… whatever that really means.

 

I have taken 3 key lessons from my ultra marathons

  1. Pain is information
  2. You can do more than you realise
  3. The body does have limits

 

Surf Coast Century rock scrambling

Pain Is Information

If anything is guaranteed, it is you will experience pain during an 100km ultra marathon.

 

Pain is powerful. It can wear us down or bring us to an abrupt stop. It can weaken our resolve, change our emotions or snatch away our goals. We don’t have to let pain have this influence on us. It may not be easy, but it is possible to change our response to pain.

 

I’ve learnt pain can be an amazing source of information. Assessing pain as it happens in an objective way, rather than responding in a subjective manner can make pain a useful tool.

 

Pain is a defence mechanism. It is designed to protect us from harm. The obvious example is if we place our hand on a hot stove top we will feel an intense burning pain. We’ll pull our hand away to protect ourselves from being burnt. When we push our limits in an ultra marathon it gets a little more complex.

 

If you listen properly pain can tell you a lot of things. We all know the burning pain from running fast, above our anaerobic threshold. If we experience this in the early stages of an 100km race it is telling us we are going too fast. Other times it’s not that simple.

 

Once past the 40km mark in my first 100km race (the Surf Coast Century) I developed a deep ache in my muscles. It was cross between the feeling of burning and bruising. This was the same pain I usually experienced in the late stages of a marathon. Just not quite as intense. What to do with this pain? I didn’t know. So I took note of it, tried to accept it and kept racing. Over the next 20km it didn’t change and didn’t seem to slow me down. When I had trouble later the pain changed. I discovered some pain may just be a reflection of effort and it is the trend or the way the pain changes that is more important.

 

Making the effort to understand the different pain experienced can be a useful tool. It can also be a way of handling the pain itself.

 

 

You Can Do More Than You Realise

Going into big races I have had some lofty goals. Do I truly believe I can hit those goals? To be honest  I’ve always had significant doubts. It is easier to write something down on paper than to actually do it. The doubts are a blessing and a curse. The fear of failure can be a powerful force. We often don’t know what it really takes to reach these goals until we have achieved them. Ultra marathons are really good at feeding those doubts as they reveal what it takes during the race.

Ultra marathons tear away your perceptions of how good you are. Each race has revealed the reality of what is required to reach my goals. Almost always it is harder than I hope. Every big event requires digging deep into my abilities. It is different each time. What has worked in the past doesn’t seem to be enough next time. This creates massive doubts before and during races.

 

Once the crutches and comforts are stripped away, you are left with the reality and doubt. Responding to these moments is what defines your races. It is a large part of why I race. In these moments I have discovered I am capable of more than I knew I was.

 

At the 55km check point of the Great Ocean Walk 100km in 2016 I felt destroyed. A combination of the brutality of the course, less than adequate training and going out too hard early didn’t get me to this point in good shape. My support team asked “How are you feeling?”

“Worse than I ‘ve ever felt in a 100km race,” was my answer. I still had 45km to go. The next 25km were considered the toughest section. How was I going to get through that? It didn’t seem possible. Yet I did. Better than just surviving this section, it was the closest I got to any goal times all day. I was able to do more than I realised.

 

 

Surf Coast Century 2012 Leg 3

The Body Has Limits

Ultra marathons are meant to test us. Many times our minds keep us in check or stop us from achieving more. Sometimes we discover our body’s limits. To truly know your limit you have to exceed them.

 

After discovering I could do more than I thought in the third quarter of the Great Ocean Walk, I found some limits in the closing kilometres of the race. My mind was strong. The pain was intense, but I had come to terms with it. As the kilometres ticked over, my muscles began to progressively fail. No matter how much I wanted to keep running. No matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t make my body do what I wanted. It had reached the point it was physically failing me. Running became impossible. Walking no longer resembled what it should. This race  brought me to and past my physical limits. I finished, but hours beyond my goal times.

 

The above is a safe example of finding those limits. A big part of racing successfully is we override our body’s defence mechanisms. Pain is now information. We find tricks and techniques to keep going. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it gets us in trouble. For this exact reason I have been taken off a course in ambulance. It is worth thinking about those limits. Having good support around you can keep you out of long term trouble if you exceed your body’s current capabilities.

 

 

Keep your running alive.