High carbohydrate intake and overtraining

Today I discuss an article from mysportscience.com and how even two weeks of hard training with low carbohydrate intake can be detrimental to performance and feelings of well being. A common scenario that I see as a coach is that people train hard for a couple of weeks and since it’s harder than they have trained before (or a big jump back into it), they become fatigued, performance lags, and their mood decreases. The first thing they say is, “This must be cumulative fatigue.” So, they keep pushing for a few more weeks until they go completely off the rails. The problem is, that it’s not cumulative fatigue. Their symptoms of fatigue are occurring way too soon in the program. Plus, with cumulative fatigue, you may feel tired, but the workout times are still there. So, here’s a quick 15-minute recap of the article posted and the study did behind the article. If you find yourself in this situation, this is an easy thing to check out and an easy thing to fix, if need be.

 

MySportScience Post

 

Custom or Pre-Made Training Plans for any distance!

 

 

 

The Fox and the Hedgehog

I recently finished reading the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. It’s not a running book, it’s actually a book on business. However, as I read the chapters, it became clear that the ideas embodied some great principles that should be applied in many areas of life. The very basic premise of the book looks at different companies that were on the Fortune 500 lists throughout the 20th century. The book compares companies that took off and comparison companies that eventually faded away through acquisition or completely changing. I won’t go into the whole thing, but it’s a great book.

What I wanted to talk about is the two concepts that really make the book applicable. These are the three circles and the hedgehog concept. I don’t know if it’s really one concept because the three circles help you find the hedgehog. The hedgehog concept is simple, on one hand, you have the fox, always hunting the hedgehog by trying something cunning and different every time. He thinks he’s being slick, only to be fended off by the hedgehog in the same way, every single time. No matter what angle the fox uses, the hedgehog has perfected the one way to always fend off the fox and always beats the fox.

From a running standpoint, this could be a person who jumps from coach to coach, or philosophy to philosophy, always trying the shiny new thing.

All of this while the hedgehog (the person who has followed sound principles and developed a philosophy that works for them) absorbs new information and sorts out all the noise about what’s new and improved.

Anyway, the three circles are really a Venn diagram representing three questions.

The first question is what are you really passionate about? In business, it was something like producing products that helped make life easier, or something like that- usually specific to a certain industry. Now, it got me thinking about runners and what this response would be. This might be- running as fast as I can, running races, using running to maintain my health, etc. For me, I think it would be to maintain my competitiveness and joy of competing against those younger than me.

The second question in the book was, what is your economic driver? This might be profit per customer, profit per transaction. Something that measures how well you made money. For runners, this might be- how many times I qualified for Boston, how often I placed in my age group, or how many races I ran.

The third question was what can I be the best in the world at? In the case of a business it would be like making printers or something like that. For you, that might be something like age-graded performance. I’m not so literal on the wording, but the point is, what can I be the most successful at? It might be recognizing that the half marathon is your sweet zone, even if your heart keeps pulling you towards the mile.

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The responses to these questions represent the inner part of the diagram and forms your hedgehog concept.

A Hedgehog Concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best.

It is an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely crucial. For you as a runner, this means understanding where your strengths lie. To me, it just clears the noise so that I can focus on what is most important in reaching my goals.

Now, when I was writing this out, I got confused on my own thought process. Am I telling a person to decide what they are best at and only stick with that? It certainly seemed like I was heading down that road. However, the more I think about it and look at what Collins’ book discussed, I don’t think that’s the case at all.

My case for the hedgehog mentality:

  1. Understanding what you are best suited for, will help you find more enjoyment in the sport. (Being successful and playing to strengths is always more enjoyable).
  2. Allows you to be realistic about your goals, especially when dipping toes into things outside your comfort zone.
  3. Not a surrender from doing any other events, by any means. To me, it means that when you are planning out seasons, looking at long term goals, deciding to run a race on a whim, then you should ask yourself the three questions above and decide how that is going to help you be the best runner you can be. Does it fit into what your “core” running being is?

I can hear many of you saying, but that means I will never have fun. To that, I say, “no you might not.” But I also think your definition of fun might change. Let’s use an example of qualifying for Boston. If you’ve been trying for years and it hasn’t come to fruition, how fun is that? More that likely, it has eventually become demoralizing. Let’s say you explore the three questions above and realize that the races you were running in the buildups were fun, but didn’t really help you when it came to your qualifying attempt. So, missing out on that immediate fun is definitely a bummer, but that fun of qualifying because of making a calculated decision will far outweigh that. Plus, after you qualify, you can find new races to jump into for a while, or the next year run those races as a stand-alone segment.

So, I don’t want you to think that you have to abandon things you enjoy, I am simply saying that you may want to consider a more calculated approach.

So, you really have to ask yourself, do you want to be the fox or the hedgehog?

Do you want to always be trying the shiny new tactic, or develop a system that allows you to be systematic, deliberate, and battle tested? Either way you go is fine, as long as you are comfortable with that. However, when you look at longevity and success, look towards the cute little hedgehog.

 

 

Hanson Marathon Method: Choosing the right plan.

Being in the right plan can make all the difference in the world. If you are familiar with the plans in the books, then you know that there can be a big difference between what others use as a beginner plan and what the HMM beginner plan looks like. These differences has led to the creation of a number of different plans based on the original Beginner and Advanced plans. These plans have helped filled the gaps to meet more people where they are at in their marathon experience. All of these plans have led to a common question, “How do I know what plan I should be in?” I explore those plans in this podcast. I have also attached a presentation so you can have a visual.

Google Slides 

 

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Question: How fast should I be running if I am not following a plan?

Today’s question comes from Phil, from our LHR Community on Facebook. Right now, he’s not really following a plan and is curious to how fast he should be running since he doesn’t have the structure guiding him right now. Here are my thoughts regarding that and a couple of options for you.

 

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It’s not too late to sign up for our fall 5k group

 

2020 Fall 5k Series

In our LHR community, many runners have grown wary of training for a virtual half or full marathon. Once in the spring was ok, but now that postponed marathons were canceled, it’s become, “what can I do now?” This 5k group is designed to fill that void. It’s the perfect opportunity to train for something shorter and maybe something you haven’t done in a long time!

Runners and Supplements

Yes, it is an age-old argument and the two sides will debate until they are hoarse. This argument is of course, do runners need supplements? If they don’t, how come? If so, why and which ones? It’s certainly a rabbit hole to go down and I have been on both sides of the argument. I certainly understand that we should strive for real food and am not necessarily a fan of getting food from a pill/ However, on the other side of the coin, runners are beating their body up with training and if we don’t get perfect nutrition in every day, then maybe a little help is warranted. Certainly, when you look at the definition of supplement, which is, “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it,” then it makes sense why someone would think that supplementation makes sense.

The main argument I see against supplementation is the idea that we should strive to eat a well-balanced diet and that will cover our needs. It’s interesting because I have heard dieticians (who are usually working with sedentary or recreationally active people) loathe the idea of any type of supplement. Then I have seen nutritionists who work with hard training athletes say that if you want to succeed, you have to be on some sort of supplement. For a long time I was in the first camp but have gradually shifted my position to the latter. Let me explain why.

The 3 E’s:

Essential Nutrition for Survival and Basic Health:

This is what is Recommended Dietary Allowances are built off, but these are government based standards and not meant for achieving optimal health. These standards are based on the average nutrient intake of an entire population. These guidelines make the assumption that everyone is already eating a healthy diet and that all nutritional needs are the same. In essence, it’s the bare minimum.

Essential Nutrition for Optimal Health:

This is the next step and means higher amounts of vitamins and minerals. It also means the inclusion of “non-essential” nutrients (but not unimportant). Things like antioxidants are required in higher doses to fight off our environmental stresses and help us recover. The quantities of these are needed in higher doses than the RDA (or DRI) states for basic survival.

Essential Nutrition for Athletic Performance:

The final level, where athletes are required to perform at a peak level, recover from training and outside stress, and maintain superior health. So, while I may not expect a person training for their first 5k in this category, I certainly would put someone who’s training consistently year-round for high-level competitions.

Some examples

 

Vitamin Men DRI Women DRI Tolerable UL PDI
Vitamin C 90 mg 75 mg 2000 mg 500-3000 mg
Vitamin D 15 mcg-600 IU 15 mcg-600 IU 100-mcg-4000 IU 400-4000 IU
B6 1.7 mg 1.5 mg 100 mg 10-100 mg
Folate 400 mcg 400 mcg 1000 mcg 400-1200 mcg
B12 2.4 mcg 2.4 mcg Not Established 12-200 mcg

I chose these because they are common vitamins that are important to runners. As you can see, there is a big discrepancy between the essential amount needed for survival and what may be required for optimal performance. The same is true for minerals.

 

Mineral Men DRI Women DRI Tolerable UL PDI
Calcium 1300 mg 1300 mg 2500 mg 1200-2600 mg
Magnesium 420 mg 320 mg 350 mg 400-800 mg
Phosphorus 1250 mg 1250 mg 4000 mg 1k-4k mg
Selenium 55 mcg 55 mcg 400 mcg 100-400 mcg
Zinc 11 mg 8 mg 40 mg 15-60 mg

 

The question becomes then if an athlete is training hard and eating the appropriate amount of calories, are they getting the nutrients in the amounts needed for the performance? I think that if things are perfect, then maybe. However, the vast majority of people I work with are not living the perfect life (who is?) and it’s tough to say what they are getting. Plus, we know that individuals vary. We also know that the nutrient food can vary widely, and we know that nutrient content in food has decreased over the decades- check out this piece from the Scientific American. 

So, while I think supplementation gets a bad rap, I don’t think just popping a horse pill multivitamin is the way to go, either. I think that you have to know if you are low in anything and you need to know what’s in the diet you are eating.

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Expensive, but worth it

Unfortunately, the first prong of this can be expensive, but it might be money well spent. If you have a solid insurance plan, you may be able to get out of this cheaper.

It wouldn’t hurt to get some blood work done.

A vitamin, mineral, testosterone (for men), and iron/ferritin tests are done. It’s not going to be cheap though (if paying out of pocket). There’s some great athlete oriented at-home tests like Inside Tracker. I also looked at AnyLabTestNow.com, simply because there is one by my office. You don’t need a prescription and you just make an appointment. However, in both circumstances, to get vitamin and mineral tests done, you are looking at a few hundred bucks. I do think that InsideTracker has a multiple session discounts though. I like that because you’d want to follow up tests every few months. This may not be 100% required, but I like having data and I like having information.

This is especially true if I haven’t felt great, haven’t recovered, and training has been stale for some time.

It’s easy to blame the training because that’s what we have to judge results, but that could be a symptom of the underlying problems.

Time Consuming

The second prong to this approach is less expensive, but it can be time-consuming. Overall, I am not a huge fan of counting calories, mainly for the reasons we talked about with variances. However, when trying to establish baselines, it’s key. I recommend going premium for a bit with a tracker (a quick search showed that there are dozens). It seems like you have to go premo for most to give you micronutrient data.

I think it’s important to track at least a few days to a good week.

That way you can track your nutrient intake for a scope of runs from easy to workouts, to long runs. The first couple days you might adjust to match what you think you should be eating, but over time, we tend to just eat normally, so several days are good to give us averages of intakes. We can take our averages and see where are doing well and where they aren’t. Couple that with any trouble spots our testing shows, we can really get a sense of what is going on. If you want to get some guidance, doing a nutrition consultation with a coach can be a big benefit. They can show you where you might be lagging, options to getting on track, and what supplements to consider.

Decide

If you make the decision that you want to try supplementation, there’s a couple of routes you can go to. One is working with a nutrition coach and making decisions as a team. The other is self supplement through multivitamins or specific vitamins. If you do the latter, you’ll want to make sure that these are the third party verified. Look for a label from the USP or the NSF on the packaging. These are the two most trusted. Secondly, mega-dosing is rarely justified and can be dangerous. Keeping intake under the PDI of intake is key to keeping yourself safe, but it doesn’t hurt to be working with a doctor and/or nutrition coach for monitoring.

Today’s discussion didn’t even get into things like metabolites or botanicals. This includes things like caffeine, L-carnitine, creatine, glucosamine and chondroitin, and nitrates. These will have to be for another day. Today’s topic was all about vitamins and minerals and why the idea of supplementation shouldn’t be scoffed at for athletes. When we look at what government guidelines are providing, we realize that a lot of people need more than the bare minimum.

Athletes may need a lot more!

And in an in-perfect world, perfect nutrition is a dream for many folks. Quality supplementation can bridge the gap between basic essential nutrition and maximal performance.

If you’d like a nutrition consultation, you can check out LHR options HERE

Special: Boston Plans and Group Training

With Boston 2.0 on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about what life might look like in phase 2 and 3 of our exit from quarantine. I recognize that it’s still not certain that Boston will be a go, so I am offering substantial discounts on our Boston plans and our second 2020 attempt at group coaching to minimize your financial commitment.

As a bonus, you have lifetime access to your Boston plans, so you’ll get to use it at some point. To be honest, these are good plans for any net downhill marathon. You can also sync to your Strava and GPS accounts. These plans also include Final Surge’s structured workout feature so you no longer have to create workouts in your watch! Plus with drag and drop features it’s super easy to customize your training plan to your specific needs.

 

Training Plans ($35)

14 week/55-60 miles per week

14 week/75 miles per week

14 Week/100 Miles per week

18 weeks/55-60 miles per week

18 weeks/75 miles per week

18 Weeks/100 miles per week

18 Week Alternator

 

Group Training ($125/19 weeks)

Starts 5/11/20!

14 week/55-60 miles per week

14 week/75 miles per week

14 Week/100 Miles per week

18 weeks/55-60 miles per week

18 weeks/75 miles per week

18 Weeks/100 miles per week

18 Week Alternator ([email protected] peak)

How fast do we lose fitness?

The topic of detraining has come up a lot, lately. At the time of writing this, we are under a stay at home shelter and our spring marathons have been cut short. A lot of folks feel like their hard fought gainZ are lost forever. However, I feel like there is a fair amount of confusion regarding what detraining is and what variations we typically encounter with training. So, today, let’s discuss what is really going on and if those feelings of having to start over are really warranted.

First, there’s full fledged detraining.

This is stopping training all together or reducing so much that a training stimulus is not elicited. This is what you’ll see a lot of blog posts and articles reference and when we talk about “use it or lose it” we are referring to this. The end result of detraining is loss of fitness over a period of time.

The second is the taper.

This is interesting because some folks buy into a very long taper and can actually dip into detraining if they reduce it for long enough time. That’s a discussion beyond today, but an interesting thought to expand on.

The purpose of the taper is to improve performance through rest.

I would define it as a calculated reduction in training through volume, frequency, and intensity, to maximize race performance through realizing the improvements made in previous training.

Third, we have the maintenance.

This would fall between complete detraining and taper. It may or may not be planned, as it may be done to try and mitigate downtime for injury, or, in our case, there’s no race to train for! With maintenance, the training stimulus is high enough to stop the downward trend of fitness loss (or at least slow it). However, it’s not high enough to promote further fitness development. I like to describe it as treading water.

The last one, to me is early rebuilding mode.

Some would refer this to reverse tapering, but I tend to stay away from that term. That would suggest that I am going to taper for may race, run the race, then follow my taper plan in reverse to get back to full training. However, I wouldn’t do that to my athletes! I couldn’t imagine giving an athlete a 10 mile tempo 10 days after their marathon! Early rebuilding, for me, would be the time post downtime (due to injury, illness, planned time off, or race) that takes us from reduced fitness to normal training volume and intensities. How I would approach this would vary on individual circumstances. This is one we will have to talk about later, too.

For now, let’s focus on detraining and maintenance.

During this time of forced shutdown, people have gone from peak training to forced downtime. Like I mentioned, there’s a lot of worry about “starting over” or at least losing a significant amount of fitness. The general consensus is that with a short amount of time off, performance will actually improve performance, but go past a few days and performance will start to decline. Specifically:

  1. After 2+ weeks, VO2max decreases. I’ve seen a lot of numbers, but generally, 5-20% depending on time off.
  2. Ventilation increases 10-14% within a few days. This would make exercise feel harder after a short amount of time.
  3. Lactate Threshold starts to decrease after a few days off.
  4. Capillarization decreases to pre training levels within 4 weeks.
  5. Mitochondrial enzymes decrease 25-45% for up to 12 weeks.

There are others, but the point is made. If you go full stop on training, you will begin to lose fitness. In terms of performance, what would that mean? After 3 weeks off, your times will slow 3-5%.

What’s that look like on the clock?

  • 40 minute 10k: 1:15-2:00 slower (Ouftda!)
  • 1:45 half marathon: 3:00-5:15 slower (Yikes)
  • 4 hour marathon: 7-12 minutes slower (Ouch!)

So that is pretty scary to think about!

However, remember that it is completely shut down.

If we are able to not train as hard or as often, but still getting out there, what’s the damage? If we reduce training, we can maintain our physiological gains and maybe even maintain a very high level of performance over a much longer period of time. On top of that, give our body a much needed break from our heaviest of training.

I looked at three articles regarding reduced training in distance runners. Now, to be fair, these studies were all pretty small in subjects and they were with younger runners. So, take it as you may! With the three studies, there was a period of normal training period followed by a 2-4 weeks block of reduced training. Peak mileage varied, but reductions were 50% to 70% in volume Frequency was also reduced. Intensity varied.

The results were pretty similar.

What was found is that there was a maintenance of primary measures. VO2max, running economy, and lactate threshold all held steady. From a physiological standpoint, we see no changes. However, in two of the studies, performance via 5k times were unchanged. In another, one was slower after the reduced training. However, it is important to note that body fat increased in these subjects from 10.4% to 11.8%. If you were to weigh 150 pounds, that’s an increase of over 2 pounds of body fat. It might not seem that much, but if the adage of 2 seconds per extra pound, that’s 4 seconds per mile, at least.

More importantly, it gives us a clue to our own training reduction.

Physiologically, we may be holding steady, but our weight can certainly fluctuate in a time of reduced training- not that I am speaking from personal experience, or anything! It just goes to show how much nutrition will play a role in all we do!

I did look at a fourth article that was similar to the other three but looked at testosterone, cortisol, and creatine kinase. With testosterone, runners were on the low side during regular training and unfortunately, the levels didn’t improve after the three week reduced volume. I don’t find this as a surprise because rebuilding testosterone (naturally) is a long term process- months of diligence. Cortisol, which is a good marker of stress levels, was also high during the regular training block, but also didn’t change significantly with reduced training.

With testosterone and cortisol, this is just a good reminder that we have to control for these long term and that we have to look at nutritional supplementation if we are going to go big ripper in training.

Lastly, creatine kinase was also high during training (expected), but this did drop significantly during reduced training. Hooray! CK is a measure of muscular damage, so this shows us that we can maintain fitness while allowing our body to recover. Anyway, just something I found interesting while looking through research.

Ok, now the question remains- what is the best way to maintain our fitness?

Glad you asked. There’s three things we can do.

The first two are reducing volume and frequency.

This may come from reducing the frequency to reduce the volume and get a twofer. Or, you can simply reduce the volume of your runs. Personally, I like reducing by 25-35% of my volume. I typically keep the same number of days, just reduce the volume. I will reduce the days if the person wants to cross train instead of an easy day.

Now the third variable is intensity.

This actually needs to stay the same or even increase! This means that easy days remain within your easy range, but more importantly, you shouldn’t abandon doing workouts completely.

Now, instead of doing two SOS and a long run per week, you may cut to one SOS and a long run.

The long runs should be reduced in volume, but if you run these in your moderate to long run range- keep em there. For a weekly SOS day, you can skip the marathon tempo every week. Depending on the break length, I usually just rotate different workouts. However, faster workouts show more promise in maintaining the physiological levels. So, this means keeping LT, 5k/10k repeats, and even mile pace repeats in the rotation. This works out well, because the volume of these are less and fit in better with the reduced volume.

Here’s what a sample for weeks might look like:

 

Week # Monday Tuesday Weds Thurs Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Easy Off 10k Reps Easy Off Long Easy
2 Easy Off 5k Reps Easy Off Cutdown Easy
3 Easy Off LT Easy Off Long Easy
4 Easy Off Mile reps Easy Off MP Easy

Super simple maintenance plan. LT= lactate threshold MP= marathon pace. 

You could honestly repeat this for a couple months, be fully recovered from hard training, maintain the vast majority of your fitness, and then pick up a new training segment for any race distance. The big point of all this, is don’t be scared of scaling back your training. Done the right way, you’ll come out of this a better runner for the long term.

 

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Mental Toughness: Putting our attention on where we focus

It’s no doubt that being “mentally tough” is something that can improve your performance, but the way I hear runners discuss, it feels like it is something that you either have or you don’t. Personally, I found it a fluid ingredient to my personal performance. I was mentally tough in my outstanding performances, but was mentally weak in most of my bad performances. What does being mentally tough really entail? Is it a trait or is it learned? Those two things are what I want to explore today.

What I have learned is that being mentally tough may not necessarily be about the amount of discomfort you can force yourself to endure, but maybe more about where you direct your focus. I have talked about this in race strategy discussions before- that early on, I don’t want to focus on too much because the more dialed in I had to be early on, the longer I had to maintain that high level of focus. For me, that wasn’t sustainable and I would often fade. Now, while I think my idea was solid in theory, my wording might have been off. I’ll explain more, later. The point is, that I was never any more, or less, mentally tough in good races than bad, but my focus was probably not set on the right cues. The idea is Limited Channel Capacity, or the ability to hold a limited amount of information at one time. Try to hold on to too much, or the wrong things, then there’s no room for what is relevant to the task and we lose performance.

When we look at those we consider mentally tough, they tend to show the following qualities. One, they have the ability to focus on their own performance, despite any outside personal issues. Look at some of the all time greats in sports and how messed up their personal lives were. They possessed the ability to flip that switch and not think about those things while in their sporting activity. Now, in your own case, that might simply mean leaving what happened at the office, well, at the office instead of bringing it to the track workout. If it’s taking up space in your head during the workout, we tend to miss the physical and internal cues of how the workout is going and it can often be a sup par event.

Maintain Focus

Secondly, they have the ability to maintain focus on their own performance after both success and failure. I have seen so many times that people overestimate their potential after one good race. I have also seen as many people completely disregard their ability after one performance.

At the end of the day, it’s a step, or a learning opportunity towards the ultimate goal.

Moving Forward

Third, the ability to recover from the unexpected, uncontrollable, and unusual events. This is good for right now. As we read of new race cancellations every day, I see both sides of the spectrum. I see people pull back and assess and then I see people who seem to be in complete despair while going right to the worst case scenario. How we decide to handle adverse situations says a lot about our mental toughness.

Ignore the noise

Fourth, they have the ability to ignore typical distractions in the performance environment. So, this might mean blocking out the dude who’s breathing like a locomotive engine instead of getting annoyed by it and letting it take up real estate in your head.

Focus on YOU

Fifth, they have the ability to focus on their own performance instead of being concerned with opponents performance.  This is a big one, and I see so often with people who train in groups. I also figuratively lived and died by this with my own teammates.

The common theme here is making sure you are focusing or concentrating on the relevant things to your performance. With that, there are four practical aspects  of concentration. The first is selective attention. During a run a relevant cue to focus on would be your stride, effort, and breathing. Something irrelevant is thinking about where you are going to eat afterwards or the houses along the course. Second, being able to focus during the event or workout. Here it might be having a rough workout and instead of just moving on, allowing it to set the trend of progressively bad workouts and then missing the goal. Third, what is called situational awareness, or taking the cues in your environment and making decisions based on that. In a race, this might be turning the corner and right into a headwind.

How do you handle this?

Fourth, the ability to shift your focus on the demands. You have different types of attentional focus like broad/narrow, external/internal, and even a combination of broad external or narrow internal. If you are running a marathon, then what you focus on at the start of the race should be shifting as the race goes on. Now, the list of things may not change but the priority of these things may change.

For runners, the last area of attentional focus may be better described as associative and dissociative properties. Association is monitoring bodily functions and feelings. Dissociation is dissociating from pain and boredom, usually via music, that is usually prevalent during long distance racing or even beginners running their first 5k (it’s all relevant). The interesting thing is that dissociation is pretty common for those who are more beginners and recreational because it can make the event more pleasant and can actually decrease fatigue and monotony. On the other hand, faster runners tend to associate with themselves so that they can monitor where they are at. The association to the discomfort allows them to push harder despite the discomfort because they already know it’s coming and they’ve already dealt with it in the past.

The above paragraph is what I was referring to when I discussed ‘zoning out’ until it was time to buckle down. Like I said, my wording was probably off, but I believe in my idea. Over my competitive career, I have found that you can’t be in that associative mindset all the time. It’s just not sustainable without burnout. For example, if I approached the easy day the day following a tough workout, then it would only be a matter of time before I was hurt. When I say intensity, I am not talking about running intensity, but mental intensity. I can’t be like “YES! A 10 mile run! GET SOME!” However, we have to get in that mindset for a 10 mile tempo. The same is true for the marathon itself. Early on, we may be in more of a dissociative mindset, just generally taking information. However, as the race goes on, we narrow our focus to more associative measures and disregard more outside information. To be that narrow focused for 2-5 hours can be mentally draining, especially when you take dropping blood sugar into account!

Don’t get distracted!

The last area I wanted to talk about was some of the issues we have with attention because we get distracted easily, especially when tired. There’s really two area of distractions- internal distractions. In this case we tend to think about past events or future events. I think we all relate to these. Past events would maybe go back to a time where you were in the same position (say the 20 mile mark of a marathon) and things went rough in a hurry. Even though you might be a different runner than you were then, by going back to that place we take away from focusing on the right now. The second is thinking about future events. These are “what if” type statements. For example, “what if I get 25 miles and I completely run out of gas?” “What if my side starts hurting?” “What if I cramp?” These all project the future and take away from the right now and the focus that is currently required for the task at hand.

The flipside is external distractions, in the form of visual and audio. A great example of both the visual and audio is Wellesley College at about the 12 mile mark of Boston. It’s in a spot where you grow from being pretty quiet to just a solid roar of screaming women with all kinds of crazy signs that are not fit for family discussion. The first time I ran Boston, I was blown away. I wasn’t expecting it and it just completely got my adrenaline going.

You instantly go from focusing on yourself in relative quiet to a roughly half mile noise tunnel and kaleidoscope.

It makes you do things you may normally not do- like high five and fist pump. While a great pick me up, it shifts your focus away from things that may not really benefit you a few miles up, when you hit the Newton Hills.

What can you do to improve your concentration?

The biggest way is self talk. I don’t recall where I saw it, but I recall seeing a stat that was to the effect of ⅔ of our internal talk was negative self talk. Yikes! We all have done it. We’ve all been critical of a decision made on the fly. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do anything to improve our performance. On the other hand, Instructional self talk and motivational self talk can improve our performance. The basis of these are self explanatory as motivational focuses on motivation for increasing effort and energy. Instruction focuses on technical aspects of the skill (running). Now, instructional self talk seemed to be better at increasing performance while motivational self talk seemed to work better for exercise adherence. So, while the data wasn’t really looking at experience, I immediately wonder if more novice runners go to motivational places where more experienced go with instructional? Considering the trends in association and dissociation, it wouldn’t be a far leap.

The 6 rules for self talk:

  1. Keep it short and sweet (mantra)
  2. Use the first person and present tense
  3. Construct positive phrases
  4. Say your phrases with meaning and attention
  5. Speak kindly to yourself
  6. Repeat phrases often

The second is routine.

We all have morning routines, right? We try to get our kids into a routine. Why? Because it becomes a habit. It becomes automatic. My theory is this- that if we create something habit, we don’t have to overthink it. It’s on our list of cues, but it’s not overemphasized. In other words, what’s in our routine is not overwhelming our Limited Capacity. I feel like one good example is our nutrition and hydration routine for your race. To those who practice their routine regularly during long runs and workouts, they don’t stress about it as much during the race itself. They know how their stomach is going to react. They aren’t concerned with how they are going to store the gels. It’s already been worked out and isn’t requiring extra attention.  On the other hand, I had athletes who talked about what they wanted to do, but never practiced regularly. On race day they were so laser focused on this, that they let that take up too much real estate in their head and didn’t take in any other cues (or they did and got overwhelmed). Even worse, since they didn’t have a routine, as soon as it got difficult, they abandoned the plan and ended up paying the price by bonking. What other routines can you think of that would carry over nicely to performance?

The last one is self monitoring.

It has been shown to improve concentration and performance. Two major areas come to mind for me and that’s food tracking and training logs. The biggest reasons to track are to see patterns, consistency, and to compare to similar days. This is true for either food tracking and training log. The key though is the detail that you are putting into it. For instance, Final Surge syncs to Garmin Connect (and others) to pull data from your watch and populates the appropriate fields. Oftentimes that’s it. The runner offers nothing else, even though there’s only raw data. Why? Well, to them that’s all that’s important.

They are only concerned with the mileage,, pace and that the day was done. If I am a coach, all I see is raw data and that doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.

When I ask an athlete they have to go back and try to sort through that one run 10 days ago with the time between being filled with other runs, work, life, and Netflix Tiger shows. The details get fuzzy. Not only does that hurt a coach’s ability to help, but it also hurts you because we don’t really have anything to compare to later on. If we did the same workout a month later, how do we know if it really went better or worse? The raw data only gives us part of the story. A perfect example would be doing a workout on February 1st here in Michigan and then turning around and doing the same workout on March 1st. On February 1st, you may be in full snowmobile suit with snowshoes on. On March first you could be in shorts and a long sleeve. See where having those details written down may help?

Details help.

They put the story to the headline. I also think that just making it a priority to log in detail cements its importance to you. It’s like wanting to become more organized so you start with simply making your bed every day. One small habit of priority leads to another and another and over time you have completely transformed your mindset, attitude, and physical surroundings.

That final piece really sums it up.

None of these things are massive undertakings. They are small items that often get overlooked, but lay a foundation to changing how we live and how we see ourselves. The fact that they may help us run better is a pretty attractive fringe benefit. The key to all of this is starting small, recognize that it’s going to take time, and you are going to probably catch yourself lapsing. Don’t give up on it. Just right the ship when you see it drifting and stay the course. Over time, I think you’ll notice big changes in a lot of aspects.

 

Luke Humphrey Running Books!

Kids need to burn some energy? Two follow along workouts!

If you are like the Humphrey family, you have now entered the world of homeschooling! In Michigan, schools are shut down until April 12th. However, my teacher friends are telling me that there is little chance of the year being finished out. Either way, your kids need to move. You need to move! Coach Nikki has added some videos with our daughter Josephine. These are a great way to hit the reset button.

Workout #1

Workout #2

If you like these videos, subscribe to Nikki’s Youtube channel “Communitas Wellness” and be notified with every workout uploaded!

20 Minute Endurance Athlete Workout

Working remotely? Gym closed? That fitness ain’t gonna gain itself! Coach Nikki offers you a 20 minute workout you can do anywhere with little to know equipment!

 

20 Minute Workout for Endurance Athletes

 

Coach Nikki is the strength coach for LHR. If you’d like to see some of the programs she offers, check out her page HERE. Programs are focused to endurance athletes and can be completed with limited equipment and space. She also offers strength and mindset programs. 

Virtual Race Updates

LHR Virtual Spring Races

Just wanted to thank everyone has registered for our virtual race. Since my original post, we have had some updates to post!

  • We have added 5k and 10k options
  • You can register for multiple events. So you can do the 5k and 10k, 10k and half marathon, or whatever combo you want. There is a discount for multiple events. The more you run the bigger the discount and is applied automatically.
  • Wrapping up medal design
  • Our friends below have all chipped in and ensured that we will have some nice swag opportunities!
    • Athletic Brewing
    • Velopress
    • Hansons Running Shops
    • Ann Arbor Running Company

The window for any race is already open and you have until May 4th, 2020 to upload your results. We hope we can help you have a good finish to your spring racing season.  Visit our race site for info and registration!