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Showing posts from October, 2011

Rethinking How to Train

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My training philosophy is shifting.

For the last four years, I trained like a mule. I focused on two things: piling up weekly mileage and tempo runs. The virtue of my plan was that it was simple. Run as much as you can and then do some faster stuff on tired legs. Every now and then I would make a half-hearted foray into hills or some mile repeats, but mostly I just piled up easy volume and moderate tempos and fartleks, week after week.

This approach got me post-collegiate PRs at every distance. I got stronger and faster. It worked, in a way. But a few things began to bother me.

First, my marathon only improved a little over 2 minutes--a mere 4 seconds a mile--over the course of 4 years [if you are doing the math, that is one second per mile per year!], even though I had essentially doubled the volume of running that I was doing. Second, I wasn't making legitimate progress towards the two goals I had when I started this whole project back in 2007: beat my college PRs and run under…

Looking Back

I've never done one of these sorts of posts, but I've had a chance lately to go back through the logic to think about some of the better pieces I've written over the last couple of years. Since I started writing the blog, I've written 130+ posts--most of them over the last two years--and run over 5000 miles.

Anyhow, here are some of what I consider the highlights:

How it works
This is how it works:

Training is doing your homework. It's not exciting. More often than not it's tedious. There is certainly no glory in it. But you stick with it, over time, and incrementally through no specific session, your body changes. Your mind becomes calloused to effort. You stop thinking of running as difficult or interesting or magical. It just becomes what you do. It becomes a habit.

Workouts too become like this. Intervals, tempos, strides, hills. You go to the track, to the bottom of a hill, and your body finds the effort. You do your homework. That's training. Repetitio…

Staying Motivated

Something I wrote a while ago on staying motivated on our local message board is being passed around online (just recently on the I <3 to run facebook page.) Thought I would claim it for posterity, though of course like all good thoughts, this is not just mine.

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There are no tricks. Run because you have to. Run because you love it. Run because you want to be fast. Run because you want to be skinny. Run to find some quiet time. Run to sweat. Run to eat. Run to hear your heart pound in your ears. Run because you're a runner. Run because you gotta keep the streak. Run because you don't know why the hell you're running. Run because you fought with your partner. Run because your job is shitty. Run because you got no money. Run for the sunrise. Run for a race. Run because it's impossible. Run because it's easy. Run instead of doing the laundry. Run instead of watching TV. Run because no one else understands. Run because the cool kids do it. Run because you're …

A Good Run.

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Good runs happen when you least expect them, and sometimes when you most need them. Tonight was a good one.

Lately I have been feeling knotted up in my running. My body seems to be working at cross-purposes, the muscles creaking, inflexible, and out of order. I can sense strength beneath all the struggle, but it rarely shows itself. My psyche gets like this, too, its different parts at war with itself. So much energy is wasted on unseen and absurd battles, inchoate and internal strife.

The incredible thing about a great run is that the body simply loosens up and begins to go. The feeling is effortless because there is no internal resistance. These are the moments in which we feel as if we are born to run. What we mean by this is simply that running can be a state in which living is not a chore or a task, but simply a happening. Instead of fighting against life, we are born into it and "borne" by it, floating upon it. Experience responds to effort in harmony, as in a song. Ef…

Running and Two Aspects of the Body

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ESPN recently published its body issue, which has some pretty amazing photos of athletes in the nude. The pictures are a reminder of how the activities that we do form and shape our bodies--and how our bodies also move us to certain activities.

Runners are pretty body-conscious folks. This can be positive and negative. Being more attuned to our bodies means that we are more reflective about what we put into them, how they are resting, whether they are gaining or losing weight, how they look in a mirror, etc. This attentiveness to the body can be healthy. It can also be unhealthy, as the high incidence of eating disorders among competitive runners sadly attests.

One way to frame this attention to the body is through the concept of control. Distance runners are, in a certain sense, making an effort to control their bodies. Through training we sculpt and shape the body around a very particular purpose: running fast over a long distance. As every runner knows, the body is not always a com…