Podcast Episode: Metabolic Efficiency Pt 1

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I’ve been doing metabolic testing and VO2max testing for a fair amount of time now, but mostly with predictable results. Not until recently, have we been testing for than one type of runner, and boy have results not been quite so “textbook.” These results have led me to explore more into the topic of metabolic efficiency.

This led to some personal revelations as to why certain runners struggle so much with not only training, but losing weight, and being able to progress from a health standpoint. I hope you find this info interesting and can put some of this towards your own training or coaching!

Dealing with Injury and Illness

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Becoming injured or getting sick can sometimes be a death sentence. At the very least, a major setback! We know that the majority of runners become injured over the course of their training. How we deal with these setbacks can make or break our overall training. Not to mention, drain our spirits.

In this episode we talk about knowing when it’s ok to run and when you need to back it off. We also show you a quick and dirty guide on how to approach your day when you are injured and need to scale back. Follow along with the PDF: Injury

Also, please make sure you sign up for email updates on our site: www.lukehumphreyrunning.com

Negative thoughts..

I saw a stat once that some 66% of our self talk thoughts (that voice in our head) is negative! If you think it, you will be it!

Here’s a little tidbit to help alleviate and be more positive: Negative Thoughts

 

 

How to return to workouts

This came to me as I read an early morning email from an athlete. This runner’s strength is also their biggest weakness- they are so darned stubborn. This athlete has been injured for a while. Some of it from pushing to hard, but some of it was due to improper diagnosis. Anyway, long story short, she’s running again and I want her to build her base of nice easy miles for a few weeks. To my lack of shock, I was informed that a half marathon threshold was performed yesterday!

This brings up a couple points relevant to coming back from injury. The first is knowing when to do that first workout back. With our athlete above, she had some things going for her. First, she had a few weeks of easy mileage with gradually more volume being added. She had handled this well, with no regression back towards the injury. The second thing is, she wanted to to do a workout. She was asking and pleading her case to me for over a week. I was able to hold her back only so far. The thing is, even the most ambitious athlete will shy away from a hard workout if they know in their heart that they just aren’t ready.

Returning to Workouts

Returning to Workouts

Guide to Returning to Workouts

 4-7 days missed

  1. 3 plus easy runs of continual improvement
  2. No limping
  3. No pain during or after run
  4. Feel better at the end of run
  5. No meds needed

2+ weeks off

  1. At least half as many easy runs as days you have missed.
    • Missed 3 weeks off? Run at least 10 days easy. I’d prefer at least 2 weeks.
  2. No limping
  3. Continual improvement
  4. No pain at all
  5. No meds needed

Ok, so you meet these criteria and are ready to run something harder. That’s great, but please don’t jump right back into what you were doing. Regardless of time off, the worst thing to do is over stress the body. We are already stressing the body by adding volume back daily. If you haven’t adjusted to this volume and throw in a really high intensity workout, then you are going to end up right where you just were- hurt and sedentary. The longer amount of time you have had off, the more we need to emphasize the foundation of training and making sure our aerobic base is rock solid before adding the intensity.

Remember this: even if you are training for a 5k, over 80% of your fitness needed is going be coming from your aerobic abilities, so gradually adding intensity is NOT taking away from overall fitness!

 

Luke Humphrey Running Books!

With all of this said, here’s how I would progress:

  1. Marathon Tempo of 3-5 miles. If you’ve had several weeks off and another few weeks of easy running, I might even start out with something like 4×1 mile at MP.
    • 1-2 days of easy recovery running before going into next SOS day.
    • If it’s been a short amount of time, then you may only need one of these workouts to test the waters. If it’s been a while. Graduate from the marathon pace intervals to a marathon tempo run before moving up in intensity.
  2. Option here:
    • For short stints off, you can probably progress to another version of tempo or interval workouts. The level of intensity should either be half marathon pace or MP-10 seconds per mile.
    • For longer stints off, general endurance will be an issue. So, After doing a couple MP paced workouts, throw a long run in there. It doesn’t have to be what you would normally do for a long run. It just needs to be over that 90 minute range to get the desired benefits. So, I might  go two workouts, long run, one more workout at MP, and then move up the next workout to a half MP type workout. After this, another long run.
  3. After 2-3 weeks:
    • If you’ve taken a few days recovery between workouts, coupled with a long run, or two, you should be about 2-3 weeks of added intensity.
    • If everything is still pointing you in the direction of increased fitness, no regressions, and plain old feeling better, then you are probably ready to pick up where you need to be. If training for a marathon, this may mean stepping back down to the marathon pace work. For other distances, start adding what you need to add.
    • However, if you never completely leave the lower intensity work out, you will allow your body to adapt to higher workloads, increase your aerobic foundation, even when at another point in training, and reduce chance of becoming injured via too much high intensity.

HCS Core Routine

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HCS Total Leg Circuit

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Running and strength training

Get strong!If I were to go back and change one thing about my running career, it would be to change how I approached I approached strength training and “core” training. It’s not that none of my coaches had me avoid strength training, in fact, I think all of them knew it would be beneficial. The problem was, that I don’t think any of them truly understood how to approach the idea with an endurance runner. Really, you can’t say it was their fault, as the idea at the time I started running is that endurance runners purely needed to be skinny. At that point, I’d say looking frail was a precursor to how well you would run!

Now, as a coach, and as an athlete trying to preserve my career, I can see the benefits. Being strong and light are exponentially better than just being light. Being strong allows you to handle higher training loads and be more resilient. This allows us to be more consistent and continue to progress at steady rates.

Getting strong takes a commitment, but I certainly don’t think the time commitment that many of us feel is necessary. Since experimenting with this myself, I have it down to an efficient set of exercises. IF we do a little bit every day, in some capacity, we barely notice that time commitment. We don’t need to sacrifice our mileage or our desirable weight. Nor, do we need to sacrifice our hard earned performance.

Alright, give me stuff!

At our camp last weekend, I presented a few slides on the subject: Running & Strength Training

My notes are on there too, so hopefully it makes senses. For our Training Supplements members, I have added pdf’s of two specific routines that I have made.

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Updated Dynamic Warm Up and Drills

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Easy Days

When we talk about developing distance runners, we talk about long runs, speed work, tempos and the sort. We talk about the difficult things , but rarely do we really emphasize development through easy running. Easy running has different levels and meanings, all of which are important. However, instead of describing these things positively, we end up referring to it as junk mileage as if it were detrimental to developing your running ability. So runners are told that all they need to do is the difficult things and they will improve. They may, I’m sure many will for a while and that’s what makes it popular. Admittedly this theory has always confused me. Maybe because I see us as a society trending towards doing the least but gaining the most. Perhaps it’s because getting better can’t possibly be as easy as running at a comfortable pace every couple days, right? Or, maybe it’s simply because the majority of runners out there don’t even think about long term development. Whatever the situation is, easy running has, undeservedly so, gotten a bad wrap. In the wake of this, we complain that we can’t run mileage or we plateau but the answer is right here- the easy run.

Easy Running: A lot of bang for your buck

Easy running is the foundation in which all other training can be built from. By itself, easy running will directly contribute to:

  • tendon development
  • specific muscle fiber adaptation
  • bone development
  • mitochondrial growth/distribution
  • glycogen storage/fat utilization
  • general endurance
  • improved running economy
  • improved VO2max
  • Capillary density

For full breakdown on the physiology of easy running: HMM

Think about when people get hurt with running, especially newer runners or those running low mileage but emphasize hard workouts. It’s some sort of tissue breakdown. Maybe it’s in the bone (stress fracture) or tendon (tendonitis- achilles, tibial). These are all pretty common, right? Why do these occur? Without getting into debate about shoes or biomechanics, let’s break this down to the simplest mechanism. Our cardiovascular system will adapt to exercise very quickly, much faster than the skeletalmuscular system. So many times, we feel much more fit after a couple weeks, so we keep increasing our paces. However, the bones and tendons haven’t had enough time to catch up to the cardiovascular system. So, bone and tendon break down faster than it can be repaired and injury occurs. This frustrates runners and they believe that they simply can’t run very far or they’ll end up injured. This a big reason people shy away from running more. To be honest, a lot of this is our fault as coaches because we don’t show these folks how to do it, or to emphasize patience. When a person tells me they can’t run mileage, the first thing I look at is their easy days compared to their racing ability.

It was hard to choose a place to start with these discussions, since it seems intertwined and dependent on each other. Of course, the first thing I tell you is to run easy and slow down to get better. So, it’s only natural that I tell you that this is not always the case! Ok, this is definitely going to require more explanation! I guess the best way to define “easy” is easier than your SOS days (Something of Substance), but not necessarily slow. Remember that I said easy running has different levels and meanings? This is another area where we as runners tend to do it, but not because they run different paces, but rather they run the same pace (often too hard) for all of their easy runs. Let me put it this way, when I prescribe a runner a range of 7 to 8 minutes per mile for their easy days, what do you think they are going to try to run? Exactly, they are going to think that is 8 minute pace is good, then 7 minute pace is even better. So, every run is to try and run their fast end of the range. Yes, technically is appropriate, but what if they are tired? What if they are getting sick? Let’s take a closer look at some “easy” running levels.

Types of easy runs

  • Recovery Running: The slowest end of the range. This is 2.5+ minutes slower than marathon pace. For a lot of runners, they have to work to run this slow. I don’t prescribe a ton, but rather like to show that if you are feeling really rough, you can still gain benefit from this running. Where you would probably see it is during a cool down after a tough workout, or a run the day following a tough workout.

  • Easy Running: This and the next range of running is the bread and butter of easy running. It’s a comfortable pace. Let’s say this range is roughly 1.5-2.5 minutes slower than marathon pace. It’s a pace range that allows you to run theoretically as far as you want and uninterrupted time is probably the greatest factor in easy running adaptations. The key here is to not force it and just let yourself fall in this range. If you struggle in this range, it may be wise to look at what the race goal time is. Most scheduled easy runs will be in this pace.

  • Moderate Running: This may be 30 seconds to a minute per mile slower than your marathon goal pace. I’ll prescribe this to my more fit runners, or runners who are already running higher mileage. While easy, it does start creeping up on the scale of energy usage. The faster you run, the more glycogen, or stored carbohydrate, is used. The goal with endurance training is to become more efficient at burning fat at higher intensities. Moderate paced easy running puts you a little closer to a threshold and while you burn a little bit more carbohydrate, aren’t in danger of running out of fuel (unless you run for hours on end). However, you do start to tell the body that it should begin to adapt. I like putting longer runs at the moderate pace to really put the body in the position to run the glycogen stores low enough to the point where the body says “Hey, let’s start storing more glycogen” And, you become pretty darn efficient at burning fat.

  • High Aerobic: This is getting really close to goal marathon pace and I don’t prescribe as much overall. Again, I’ll use this for some long runs or for some early season hard runs for some runners. These shouldn’t be added much though until the runner is at a mileage level that isn’t going to change drastically. What you might see is a long run with a section run at this pace with the amount of time spent increases every few weeks. Your better marathoners can do this up to a couple hours, or most of their long run, when nearing peak fitness.

Now we have a lot of info here and I discussed two of the main ways we tend to mess it up. Let’s talk about how we can use easy runs to build our training volumes higher than we ever thought possible.

Using easy running to build volume

  1. Focus on completing the duration, not running hard. Even if you are on a run/walk program. The fastest way to actually decrease the time needed to run for 30 minutes straight is to slow down and increase the time jogging between walks. This applies to beginners, those starting back up after an extended break, and those attempting to reach new training volumes.
  2. Break up your days/runs. Basically, don’t run every run faster than need be. If you feel tired, you still get benefit from a slower run. If you can trust that faster isn’t always better you can save yourself a lot if frustration in the long term. Use recovery pace for those days that you just aren’t feeling the best. Use easy pace as your average run. Moderate is fine for long runs and days you feel really good.
  3. Allow your body time to adapt. What may take your heart two weeks to adapt to, may take your tibia four weeks. Just be careful in ramping the training up. Maybe it’s very small increments weekly or a larger increase every six weeks. Old veterans may be able to jump much quicker. It’s individual but the newer you are to the sport, the longer I would give yourself.

I try to be open minded with different methods of training, but one thing I cannot stand is the term junk mileage. I think it’s a way to get around telling people that they are doing it wrong. This may be harsh, but as a coach, it’s our responsibility to be honest. Otherwise, you jeopardize the athletes potential and that is not fair to anyone. Easy mileage is the foundation of training and the gateway to faster training and better training. We simply need to get over the idea that their are shortcuts to long term success.

-My 2 Cents, Luke

 

Dynamic Warm-up

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