As a scientist, I’ve always believed in the power of numbers, data, and statistics. With running though, it’s impossible to make any solid conclusions based on any one individual’s stats. To me, that’s both wonderful and extremely frustrating. Wonderful in that the possibilities are endless, and therefore, a better result is just “around the corner”. However, it’s also extremely frustrating because if running were more straightforward, we could adopt a universal set of rules to train by and thereby reach our full potential. Instead, we’re left to keep tweaking with variables until we’re blue in the face (hopefully not literally) and still not come up with all of the answers.
As an example, in just this past week, I listened to 2 podcasts — with one guest proclaiming that marathoners should never do speed work, while the other featured a guest who declared that speedwork, even 200m intervals, is essential for improvement at the marathon distance. Another example are the many proponents, especially in the ultramarathon community, who swear by fat burning – and that sugars and carbs are the devil. They’re countered by dietitians and sports nutritionists who still abide by the paradigm that carbohydrate is king when it comes to fueling during races.
In the midst of this information, who are we to believe? For me, I’ve taken the stance of “An Experiment of One.” I’m my own lab rat, and I’ll see what hypotheses work best for me. So far, I’ve taken well to zero drop shoes, not eating breakfast before my morning runs, MAF training, and fueling with gels and chews. The things that haven’t worked for me are certain sports drinks and Margarita-flavored Clif Bloks.
Then, there are number of things I’ve filed under “Inconclusive”, stretching and foam rolling to name two. Last year, when I was really starting to tackle my hip issue, I stretched religiously. I was often found in pigeon pose on the floor of our apartment, hoping to find some relief for the ache in my hip. While the stretching felt good, it never cured my ills. However, I don’t think all stretching is useless. I do a very brief stretching routine right after each run, which always makes me feel more limber, and I think that deeply stretching my right Achilles a couple of months ago opened up some range of motion that wasn’t there before. I’ve concluded that stretching is useful (in the context of running) when it helps with your range of motion.
As for foam rolling, I think it’s interesting that I was very earnestly foam rolling 5-6 days a week for 15 minutes a day for almost this entire year. (This includes all types of sports-related self massage — e.g., the Grid roller, lacrosse ball, and the Orb.) As my injuries got worse, the more I dedicated myself to it. However, I stopped foam rolling about 2 months ago — not really intentionally, but because with a new job and a long commute, I no longer had the time or energy for it. And you know what? I haven’t had any problem spots at all. I do think that these self massage tools have their place, but I doubt they’re meant to be used so routinely. It seems like they could easily aggravate the problem, or mask deeper issues that can only be addressed through proper physical therapy and strength work.
Anyway, these are just some issues that have been floating around my head for a while. What about you — have you experimented with any fads or techniques that proved to be useful or useless?
A quick summary of this past week’s runs:
Tuesday: It was raining pretty hard, so I headed to the gym before work. I was proud of myself for packing a gym bag the night before with my work clothes and toiletries and not forgetting a single thing! It was the first time I used the shower at the gym, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but everything worked out great. The run was okay too. I even threw in some faster intervals at the end of the workout. 5.45 treadmill miles at 11:00/mile.
Thursday: A very low-energy run, even though my heart rate (HR) was just fine. I realized that it must’ve been cumulative fatigue in my legs from running hills on Sunday and then adding some faster miles at the end of Tuesday’s run. I had intended to run about 5 miles, but ended up cutting it short. 3.7 miles at 11:35/mile.
Saturday: Hills, hills, and more hills! It was a really nice day out on the trails of Lake Chabot. I was pretty happy that my pace was similar to last week’s trail run despite adding ~450′ elevation gain for a total of ~1170′. HR was pretty consistent also. 6.9 miles at 13:19/mile.
Oh, and I played a bit of tennis in the afternoon. It was my first time in years, and it showed! Oh well, at least I provided some comedic entertainment for our group.
Sunday: Easy run at Hayward Shoreline. 6.4 miles at 10:46/mile.
Total for the week: 22.45 miles. Just a smidgen more than last week = progress! (Hey, I’ll take anything I can get.)
And here’s your random photo of the week: