#Runnerd alert: some running advice from the experts

Being a complete #runnerd has its benefits.  For example, I was invited to attend a cross Country Coaching Clinic this past weekend at Mt. Sac where all of the talk, both big and small, revolved around tempo runs, ice baths and chocolate milk.

(And I finally got some answers to some pretty important training questions that I will share with you in just a moment.)

The LA84 Foundation is funded with leftover money from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. They aim to increase knowledge of sport and its impact on people’s lives by supporting youth sports. Not only do they award grants to organizations throughout Southern California, but they also educate the region’s coaches, who impact the lives of young athletes.

Following are the presentations I attended:

  • Developing Program Personality and Culture by Scott Abbott, Cross country coach at Sacramento State
  • Creating a Training Program by Ken Reeves and Bill Tokar (both successful regional high school coaches)
  • Exercise Physiology and Sport Nutrition Scientific Research (and how it applies to cross country) by Dr. Jeff Messer
  • Multi-lateral Training for Long Term Development by Scott Abbott

Indeed you may be glazed over by those titles, so let us move on to the bottom line.

Here are CM’s cliffs notes:

  • Core training has not shown any significant impact on performance, but if you want to use it to prevent injury you should.
  • Resistance train directly after (not before!)endurance training to reap the greatest benefits
  • Post-training macronutrient intake is important:  Chocolate milk is an idea recovery drink (really there is science behind this and not just by the dairy association)
  • Stretch dynamically before a run to warm up the body;  static stretch after to diagnose any abnormalities or potential injuries.  (There is no clear data on what is best, but this is what most coaches do.) Flexibility is over-rated. 
  • Ice baths should not be used for recovery as they reduce inflammation.  When you reduce the inflammation your body cannot adapt as well to training.  (This was written about in the latest issue of Running Times.)  I have always favored Epsom salt baths after hard workouts because doing so helps me to walk around normally for the rest of the day.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed hearing a PhD in Exercise Physiology talk a mile a minute about research behind training and sports nutrition, I also really enjoyed hearing Scott Abbott talk about a multi-lateral training (aka training all systems all the time).

I say this because I think those of us who train for marathons chronically over-train certain systems and undertrain others, and this is what leads to injury and burnout.

Which means that my lack of funds actually makes my approach to the marathon line up with his philosophy.  (I only run two a year because I cannot afford to do more than that.  He would give me a high-five on allowing myself time to recover and strength train in between these races so that I can come back stronger each time and keep making progress instead of burning out.)

But what Abbott was talking about also made a lot of sense as it relates to youth running.  He thinks that our lack of focus on long-term development in our youth sports programs is the reason Kenya (running) and Norway (cross country skiing) and other champion nations produce much better endurance athletes. 

We should be focused on the big picture:  how we will perform down the road instead of how we will perform in our next race. (Alberto Salazar’s long-term development of 10K phenom Galen Rupp is a wonderful example of this approach.)

Which is obviously much harder, because it takes more time and loads of patience. 

Following are the ten components of training that should be included every week in training:

  1. Sleep (more than 8 hours per night)
  2. Fuel (the good stuff:  hydration, fruits and veggies, protein, etc.)
  3. Maintenance and Recovery (stretching, massage)
  4. Form, flexibility and mechanics (warmup drills, dynamic stretching, foot strike and arm carriage)
  5. Easy, recovery pace runs
  6. Long run
  7. Moderate, Steady State Pace
  8. Fast Tempo Pace (marathon to 15K pace range)
  9. Race Pace and Aerobic/Speed Support (intervals, fartleks)
  10. Speed and Strength Development (core/upper body, plyometrics, weights, hill repeats)

Obviously this list seems overwhelming for those of us who have an hour and a half or less each day to exercise. 

But often we can combine two of these in one block, like my habit of working on form during my recovery runs, or chasing MFP during my steady state pace runs which takes care of my interval training.

Finally,  I will leave you with a few inspiring quotations gained from my day of cross country education:

  • Be consistent, not epic.
  • Focus on the process, not the goal.
  • Shoot for solid and let spectacular just happen.
  • Running fast is a skill.

Class dismissed.

P.S.  Here is a fantastic article from Competitor about breaking up your training into cycles, and here is a great blog about youth sports.

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