First real workout back

This week was the first in which I felt like a runner again. That was partly because I began actual workouts and partly because I was running doubles again. The legs are going to take a little bit of time to get used to it all. but overall the week went well.

As far as I'm concerned my 2008 season starts now. Since it's my last collegiate year, I'm going to try and do everything right, or as close as I can get to it. I've basically cut desserts and crap food out of my diet. This was relatively easy to do. All I had to do was not buy any of them, thus they are never in my apartment and I can't eat them. In addition, I'm going to do a more extensive strength training routine 3 times per week. I've been doing this for a while and my hope is that I can take some of the strength (Note: NOT muscle size or bulk) and convert it into strength endurance and power (thus last weeks circuit workout).

I've pretty much got the training schedule set up, with the exception of a few specific meets. I might put part of that online, but we'll see.

This week:

9 total LT workout
PM-4 slow, shakeout, hamstring tight

4mi shakeout
PM-8 easy

4 easy, shakeout
PM-7mi at UofH track- 40degrees, windy and raining- perfect for the first workout
2mi w/up, 3x(4x400 w/ 30sec rest) 400 jog b/t sets (1st set-65.7 avg…2nd-65.4avg….3rd-64.8avg) 1.5mi c/d.. Goal/aim was to do them at tad faster than 5k pace. So I was looking to hit 66s, so it went well. I'm not a big fan of the cold but got it in. And like always, the UofH track is always windy, never fails.

PM-8+mi w/ Anthony plus 6x100m strides

4 easy
PM-9.5mi uphill hard aerobic run on Treadmill
2mi w/up, 28:20 total treadmill at max (4,5,6,7,8degree inclines), 3 easy, 2min hard (up 9/10 degree incline)- Explanation. I set the treadmill on max (10.5mph) and then crank the incline up to 4 degrees, then I stay there for 2 songs, after 2 songs I crank the incline up for another 2 songs, and so on.

15mi doiwn cypresswood, LONG, Got to get the mind and body accustomed to pounding it out for a long period of time. That is the one thing that I missed from cross training. The body has to adjust.

8mi+ strides (10x100, 2 easy, 1 good)

AM-5mi easy
PM- 2mi w/up, track workouts
3x600 (66 pace down to 63 on last one)
3x300 63 pace down to 60
3x500 66 pace down to 63
3x200 60 pace down to 57

~2min rest, lap jog between sets, last one on each set 3sec per 400m faster, VERY WINDY

ACTUAL splits:
1:38.4, 1:37.2, 1:33.9
46.1, 46.4, 43.2
1:22.9, 1:20.1, 1:17.7
29.1, 28.4, 25.0

Excellent workout. Felt good doing it and felt easy.

Running Economy?? Overated.. echinacea and EPO?!

Running Economy,my log, and Echinacea.

Running Economy

RE is another one of those magical physiological markers that tell us how fast a runner should run. Just like it’s cousin VO2max, having a good RE is essential to becoming a great distance runner. In fact, if you combine it with other abbreviations, you have the ultimate running prediction calculator. Take a bit of RE, add some VO2max, and top it off with a high LT and you have yourself the equation to end all equations. Just by knowing these three variables (or any other abbreviated physiological terms out there) we can tell if you, yes you, are destined to be a world beater or that guy who is killing himself to beat the little old lady in the local 5k fun run.

Hopefully you caught the sarcasm… While some physiologists (generally NOT the good ones) or college students may like you to believe this, it’s simply not true. Once again, we simplify a much too complex system, hoping to find a nice easy answer. Unfortunately it does not work like that. There are no easy variables that can tell us how good of a runner you are or can be. We can get good guesses, but then again, I can go watch you do a set of 400 repeats on the track and give you a good guess. Following that notion, my favorite title to a research paper was one that was entitled something like “5k time trial is found as best predictor for a 5k race. Time Trial predicted better than VO2max, Lactate Threshold, etc.” Really? A time trial of the race distance is a good predictor?!?! WHAT?! Groundbreaking! Thank god for that info. That’s the sad state of a lot of physiology research out there. It is almost pointless and doesn’t help us out at all. There is way too much time spent on standardizing some interval training or adjusting some protocol, that little real world info comes out of it. But alas, that is a topic for another day.

Back to Running Economy. What is it? It is a measure of “the cost of the body’s movement (in terms of Oxygen uptake).” Or basically, it is how efficient you are. Think of it as how many miles per gallon you get for a certain speed. If your car is more efficient, you get better gas mileage, so you can go longer at that speed. When most people think of efficiency, they think of running form. So it would make sense that, the “better” ones running form, the more efficient a person is. Well that is true. BUT, then some guy will tell you that Alberto Salazar, who we can all agree had pretty bad running form, was a very efficient runner (according to RE). That is also true. Then they will point out how they once heard Jack Daniels (the guy, not the drink) say that a group of coaches could not pick out what runner had the best Running Economy. So if coaches, who were trained in looking at running form, couldn’t pick who was most efficient, that running form doesn’t seem to matter in terms of efficiency right? Wrong.

The problem with Running Economy, just like VO2max, is that it takes a large complex process, efficiency, and simplifies it way too much into a nice little number. Running Economy can be best thought of as a look at WHOLE BODY efficiency in terms of oxygen consumption. Going back to our Car and gas mileage analogy, the miles per gallon rating can be seen as a look at the WHOLE cars efficiency. However, we know that there are many components that go into improving gas mileage. One component may be how you drive your car, if you accelerate and decelerate rapidly or drive relatively constant with no sudden starts and stops. The better you drive your car, the better your gas mileage. Equate how you drive your car to how good your running form is.

Another factor might be if your tires are properly inflated or if you are using quality motor oil. If you do these things, your gas mileage will be better. Lastly, the performance and efficiency of your engine is another factor that affects gas mileage.

Knowing that these several factors affect gas mileage, what happens if you drive really inefficiently, with lots of speeding, stops, etc., yet you use the best motor oil and your engine is in perfect condition. Because you did the latter, you get very good mileage per gallon. Would you get better if you improved your driving skills? Most likely.

The same thing applies to the human body when we are talking about Running Economy. You are not simply efficient or not as a runner. Some parts of you will be very efficient while others won’t. RE reflects the sum of all of those parts, just like gas mileage represents the sum of the parts in a car’s efficiency. There are three basic types of efficiency that come in to play and effect Running Economy.

The first is mechanical efficiency. This is what most people think of when they hear “He’s an efficient runner.” It is best thought of as how good one’s running form is, or his outward appearance as a runner. Do his feet hit the right way, is his hip extension good, etc. There are other non-appearance items that fall under this category, such as the physiological factors like the tension in the muscle/tendon, how much energy return the runner gets, and a whole slew of other factors. But in general, mechanical efficiency can be seen as, and be improved by working on, the runner’s form.

The second type is what I’ll term (NOTE: I’m defining the terms because I don’t recall seeing RE split into different types of efficiency before) Physiological efficiency. This encompasses all of the processes that take place within the body’s circulatory and muscular system. A couple of examples would be how efficient the oxygen transport and utilization system is and how efficient the body is at breaking down energy sources.

The last type is neural efficiency. This refers to the processes that are dependent on the Nervous system. The creation of motor programs or engrams that essentially tell the body what to do and how to run is what this efficiency deals with. The more you run, the more efficient the body becomes at sending the neural signals from the brain to the muscles. The brain also becomes better at determining how many and what muscle fibers to fire to do a certain movement.

These three types of efficiencies are essentially what govern how efficient a runner is in a whole body sense. There interaction and the fact that you can be much more efficient in one area than another, shows why it is asinine to think that running form improvement do not make one more efficient (if they are correct improvements). At first, the athlete will become less efficient as he is learning a new skill because his neural efficiency will drop, but over time his neural efficiency will adapt to the new motion and his mechanical efficiency will improve. In the case of Alberto Salazar he was very efficient at running wrong. He’d run so many miles that his body had become very efficient at running the wrong way. You become better at what you practice, even if what you practice is wrong.

This is just one example of how some coaches and scientists have drawn the wrong conclusion from a set of data. Make sure you aren’t one of those who makes that mistake.

Another successful couple of days. Really coming around. Was very pleased with friday's workout. It was a different type of workout but I liked the effects. We'll see if I stick with the idea but it looks promising. It's a Canova based idea so it's worth looking into.

8.5mi steady+ 10x100m (2E,1G)

9mi at Burroughs, cold and raining
2mi w/up, 4xextensive circuit up green monster hill (took roughly 4:10) with jog back down recovery, 2mi c/d

Extensive Strength Circuit.

Reasoning- Combining elements of strength and endurance. Will progress to enhance high intensity strength endurance (maintaining high levels of strength for a longer period of time.).

800m hill Plus 200+m flat
55sec fast
10 quick double legged jumps
10sec hard
25sec skipping
40sec moderate
10 deep squat jumps
40sec moderate
30 ankle hops
35sec fast
4:10 range (covered 800m in 3:05 usually, so with strength exercises was running at a good clip during running sections)
rest 6min jog back

13mi easy- Sore like I expected.

8mi with Andy decent pace plus 10x100 (2E,1G)

Echinacea and EPO
I was doing some research today and came across 2 interesting studies that found that mega doses of echinacea increases EPO in the body by 50-70%. Pretty significant and interesting find. It's weird that a failed cold cure would increase EPO. Hopefully there is more research coming.
School has started unfortunately but at least I am running. I'm finally over the awkward phase of running. For a couple of days I felt complete uncoordinated when running and had no sense of pace what so ever. These past two days I'm starting to get back in the groove. My lungs feel great, but the legs are still coming around. My hamstrings have been pretty sore because during cross training I hadn't been using them as much as I do in running.

Below is my log and then some links I have found interesting. A couple of them are training resources. There's a lack of elite training info on the net so if you know of any good resources let me know.

8mi- 6mi at sub 6 (split 2:54 800 at 3mi), 7x10sec hill sprints (lft hamstring a little tight), 1.5mi c/d

8mi total of
7mi at 5:35 pace, easy jogging then 10x100m (2 easy, 1 good)

8mi total of
1.5mi w/up, 2.5mi LT (12:33) 2E, 1.5 LT (7:28), 1:30 E, .50mi (2:23), 1:30E, .25 (69 uphill), 1.5mi c/d

Some interesting links:
Great canadian athletics site with lots of good technical articles on all events in track. Also check out their interview section with some of the best minds we've seen in track.
USATF is FINALLY getting on the bandwagon of having coaching info on their website. It's about time!! Anyways, there are some good presentations from the USATF coaching clinics up.

Elite 800/1500m runner Jen Toomey's blog is a very good one. Some great perspectives on the runner's life.

Other recent news:
This is the reason Congress is involved in the steroid issue now. I can't imagine a dad giving his 12 year old son steroids... This steroid mess needs to be cleaned up.

Let's talk cross training...

Since that is all I've been doing lately, let's talk about the horrible thing runners have to do called cross training. As I have been reading about cross training the past couple of days, there are several things that really annoy me. Before we get into that, let me briefly tell you where I'm coming from in my cross training experience. If you don't want to read it, skip the next couple paragraphs till you get to problems with cross training ideas.

My first experience with long term cross training was my freshman year in HS. I ran through a stress fracture in Cross Country and eventually had to take about 6 weeks off. During this time, the routine was swim workout in the morning and bike workout in the afternoon. Why? Because those were the two methods of cross training we had available at school. Following this 6-8 week (don't recall exactly) layoff, and 1 week of easy running, I ran a mile time trial and PR'd running in the low 4:40s. I went on to run 4:22 during track season, but at that time it was a significant 1600 pr (the year before I'd run 5:10).

For the next 2 years I got to experience cross training off and on unfortunately through a couple injuries. The most significant being achilles tendonitis which put me in the pool/bike combo for another long period. It was a little tougher coming back from that one as I came back mid cross country season, but off of maybe 6 weeks of running, I made it back to place in the 20s at the state meet, so it was pretty successful.

One of the biggest early cross training influences was from my friend and often cross training buddy Nolan. He was the most injury prone runner I've ever known. He went 4 years of CC and track in HS and never made it through an entire season without having some injury. By his senior year our HS coach had him do a modified training program where he did most of his easy and aerobic stuff in the pool or on the bike and then stepped out on the track to do speed work to get him ready for an 800. He ended up running 1:58 I believe so it worked rather well.

Because of the aforementioned experience and a belief that not everything we do in distance training is spot on, I've read/been influenced by the training systems used in other sports, most notably swimming, but also cycling, skating, skiing, and rowing. Researching these other sports gives me a decent, but not great, grasp on the training they use.

Lastly, the most recent cross training experience is from someone I coach. He's another injury prone athlete, so we decided to follow the pattern of my old friend Nolan and of Zap Fitness runner Brendan O'Keefe and have him train by running 4 days a week and cross training the others. We are only a little bit into the experiment, but so far the results are very promosing. He's already running thresholds faster than he was in CC when he was going the traditional running route and isn't suffering any setbacks like he has so many times before.

Problems with Common Cross Training Ideas

1. How much do you have to cross train?
This is probably the most often asked and debated question. If you go on the running sites like letsrun or even read the popular literature like Scott Douglass' chapter in Run Strong, then you would get the idea that you have to spend even more time than you would if you were running because there is no impact. People commonly say that a mile biked is .3 of a running mile or similar conversions.

First off, there are no conversions. Forget about it. Secondly, in my opinion, these people are dead wrong. What happens is they read about how much training professional cyclists or swimmers do. They then combine this notion with the fact that these are no or low impact exercises and reason that since there is low impact you can do more of it. The reasoning is flawed for a couple reasons. First off, we, as runners, aren't training to be swimmers or bikers. We are doing that activity to maintain our running fitness and make it easier to come back. The demands are much different. For example, most cycling events are much longer in duration than the running events we are training for.

Secondly, most of us do not use biking, swimming, or an elliptical regularly. This is important because that means these activities are new stimulus to us. If you get on a bike for the first time in a long time and you cycle for 3 hours, what is going to happen to your body? Nothing is used to that activity, your muscles aren't going to be used to that and you'll have more microtears than usual and thus be more sore. It will take longer to repair the muscle too, so the soreness will persist and fatigue will come faster for a couple of days. It's like the old chart you see in every training book, the curve where you push yourself below the line during a workout and then come back up during the recovery.

Think back to those training books you've read and remember how they say that you quickly respond to a new stimulus and then the improvements tend to level off. Normally the paragraph on this is accompanied by a picture of a graph showing some variable that increases rapidly at first then slowly levels off and eventually flattens out. That is what happens with cross training too. You will respond to even relatively moderate loads at first (not low loads because your fitness from running has some carry over effect).

Ignoring all of the science, the best way to think about why it is rediculous is use common sense. Go try and bike for several hours every day. By the 3rd or so day your ass will be so sore it is not even funny. Your legs will feel like burning even at low intensities and HR's. How do I know this? I've tried it. It happens. Perhaps more convinving, is the idea that if Lance Armstrong during his prime got hurt so he couldn't bike for 5 weeks and could only run. Do you think he'd do the equivalent of his cycling training running? No, would he even do close to it? No. Would you have him run 100mpw? No. Ignoring the impact of running, you still wouldn't. He'd be fried by 100mpw and workouts that first week even if the impact wasn't a problem.

So what does this all mean? The BEST rule of thumb is to take whatever running mileage you were doing and do that amount (time wise) cross training the first bit. So if you run an hour a day, do an hour of cross training a day. Then you can increase that amount as you grow accustomed to it. Generally I recommend, the first week being the amount of CURRENT time you would be running. The second week I recommend you increase the total time, to the maximum amount of time you spend running (i.e. the highest mileage week). Then the third week, if you feel good, you can increase it a couple "miles" above that.

But that sounds like you're telling me to work less than the "experts" say? That's correct. I don't normally say that, so enjoy it while it lasts, but it's the truth. You don't have to accept it. But from my own experience listed above I think it is the way to go.

Remember, we are training for running, not cycling, not aquajogging, running. We don't care about cycling specific adaptations. If you could run 3 hours without the pounding would you in training for a 3k? No, why bike that long? In a lot of cases, I don't want some of the negative consequences of cycling that much that might hurt my running if I come back.

Lastly, In this whole post, I'm referring to athletes who are out for a relatively short to medium period of time. So anywhere from maybe a week to 12 weeks. If you are out for 6months or so, things are slightly different because you have to be more in tune with the negatives of some cross training methods (i.e. getting too big quads for running b/c of cycling).

That's enough for now, I might look at other specifics later.

Cross Training Log:

AM-45min bike-15mi- 30min forward(avg-140, generally in 145 range), 15min backward(avg-136)

PM- Elliptical-65min-
2mi w/up(15min-HR120),
5mi LT(20:52-avg171-steady at 175, max 184(level 3 resistance), 3E(down to 132),
1mi (lvl 6, avg-178, up to 191), 3E(down to 132), 2min hard (level 8- up to 188), 1E(down to 158), 1min hard (lvl 10 for 30sec, lvl 12 30sec- up to 188), 1E(down to 162), 30sec as fast as machine would go (25+mph, lvl1- up to 185), 14min c/d (down to 120)

70min Elliptical- avg HR-130avg (max 152 (10min backwards on machine, 5min going backwards)

90min Bike- 90min total-75min-avg speed 35ish kmh, HR mostly in mid 150's(avg 152-max 162), last 15min backwards
I've been down and out with a small injury, thus the lack of updates. It's tough to get back into the normal routine when you are cross training instead of running. You really don't feel like doing the normal things you do when you are running (i.e. update logs, check out running related websites,books,etc.). Luckily I caught it early enough and I'm only out for 2 weeks or so.

So here's my cross training edition of my log for the past couple of days. Most of it is stationary biking. I got some training on a really crappy elliptical while I was on the family vacation and have made the trip to the pool twice, but I have a stationary bike at home so that works best:


PM-60min swim workout- lots of stuff... swimming laps, kicking, no arm backstroke, no legs breaststroke, 20min water running w/ no flotation with no hands surges, 50m reps of underwater swimming w/ out taking a breathe, some 25m "sprints" w/ fins


AM-biking on stationary-60min-21ish miles HR mostly in 140 range


AM-40min biking plus 20min elliptical- avg HR 135- 60min total


AM-biking- 20min w/up (117HR), 10min LT( gradually up to 175), 3E (down to 132), 6 LT( up to 178), 2E (down to 143), 4 LT (up to 182), 17:30 c/d (avg- 125)

PM-45min swim workout- laps and kicking of various kinds, no deep end so no water running

AM-30min elliptical (HR avg- 136) 30min bike (avg=143)
PM-60min biking recovery (126 HR)


AM-60min-bike- avg HR-140ish range- 21miles

PM-Bike-20min w/up (HR-110), 15 LT(up to steady state of 171), 3E (down to 142), 10 LT (up to 176 steady), 3E (down to 135), 4 LT(up to 175), 1 Hard (up to 188), 15 c/d (down to 1:30) recovery and c/d were backwards biking. LT part was at 38-39kmh speed, hard was up to 45kmh.

AM- 75min biking- 25miles- HR 134
midday- 40min strength circuit
PM- 50min biking with 10x30sec speed variations in the middle, HR-avg 148
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