Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Lazy Runner Manifesto

I decided to piece together some rules of running that I've used to keep my running on track and stress free. Without further ado, here they are...

1.) Just Say "NO" to Junk Miles

There are more marathon training plans out there than you can shake a stick at, and many of them ask that you log 50, 60, 70 miles a week and run nearly every single day.  And many of the runs in those training plans are "recovery runs".  These runs are great if you're really looking to fine-tune your running and compete in races rather than simply enjoy them. But for an overwhelming majority of us, these extra miles are just another opportunity for injury or burnout. If you have a particularly tough run one day, don't feel bad about taking a day or 2 off ... or even 3 or 4!  In my first year of ultrarunning I went from a nearly decade-long hiatus from running to a strong finish in my first 100 Miler by only running 2 or 3 days a week. I never felt burnt-out, my legs always felt strong, I stayed healthy, and I made a ton of progress in my running. And all that progress was made by averaging 25 miles a week -- some weeks were less than 20 miles, some weeks I took off entirely.  I only ever got to 50-70 miles when I had long races or in the last couple of weeks building up for my first 100 Miler.

2.) Run with PURPOSE

This is related to the first rule and it's pretty simple -- make sure most of your runs have a purpose. If you're not going to be logging tons of miles week in and week out, the miles you do run need to count.  For ultrarunning that means LONG runs and HILLS.  It's pretty simple! Long tempo runs or extended runs at marathon pace will likely help you ratchet up your VO2 max a little bit over time, but when your average pace for a race is considerably slower than marathon pace, they're not really all that necessary. I may love to run, but I also love lounging on the couch, spending time with my family, and having a life beyond exercise. By making sure I have 2 or 3 purposeful runs each week, I can rest for the remaining days.

3.) Hit the Hills

Hill runs are the single most useful exercise in the ultrarunning bag of tricks.  Running uphill is speed work in disguise. Long, continuous hills of a mile or more are a fantastic workout, but not all of us live near the mountains so running up and down a decent sized hill over ... and over ... and over again is good enough. But don't just focus on those uphills, the downhills are where you really start testing and pushing the limits of your quadriceps. A good hill run with a healthy dose of downhills is going to give you a solid bout of DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, which is vital to pushing the limits of what your legs are capable of.  AND ... hills are just downright fun!  Well, maybe not fun like going to a ballgame, but having some varied terrain in your runs can boost your spirits and give you a heck of a sense of accomplishment.

4.) Listen to Your Body

This may seem obvious, but too many runners sacrifice their body and risk injury for the sake of sticking to a rigid running schedule.  If your muscles feel sore, take a day or 2 off. If your joints are achy or your tendons seem to be a bit inflamed, make sure you take enough time off from running so that you can heal completely -- maybe it's only a couple of days or maybe it's a couple of weeks. If you take a week or 2 off to get back to 100%, it's unlikely you'll lose much of your fitness level. My general rule is that if I feel a new pain, I won't run again until I'm pain free for 48 hours in my day-to-day activities. That may be a bit on the cautious side, but it helps me to avoid major injuries.

... And that's it! Don't run too much. Make your runs count. Vary your terrain and workouts to spice things up. And give your body a rest when you need it.