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low-mileage, marathon, marathons, races, running, running basics, Sports, Training

Four Weeks to A Better Trained Body and Brain

Central Park Runner, May 2009

Central Park Runner, May 2009

I have a 1oK race coming up in the next couple of months. My goal, therefore, is to become very efficient at running those 6.2 miles. To do that, I need to condition myself to run at least that distance if not farther.

To run farther distances runners must run LSDs (long slow distances) to increase their mileage slowly without injury. I have a problem doing that.  Last year, as I trained to run my first half marathon I ran too fast and my long slow distances were long fast runs. While I performed well in the race, I burned out and injured my hamstring.

Mentally, it seems impossible to run slowly because I have a mental problem with running slowly.  To train my mind to adjust to the time it takes to run seven miles slowly, I have developed a four week program to allow my body to acclimate to running 7 miles as slowly as I can.  By doing this I will condition my body to run my race distance without injury. So here I introduce  4-week 7 miler program.

You obviously cannot do this with repetitive marathon distances but for 10Ks or shorter, or even up to a half marathon, doing this can provide many benefits. First of all, you condition your body to the longer distance while conditioning your brain to allow yourself to run slower. Since 7 miles is over my race length, I can take four weeks out of my training to condition my brain all myself to run slower and more efficiently. The idea is that I will get better at running the 7 miles slower – either through a more consistent pace or with less soreness and fatigue the next day.

I recommend this if you are runnnig two fast normally and are conditioned to run the distance of your race. If not, you still need to continue to build your base up to your race distance.

Last evening I ran my second of the four 7-mile runs. I ran those miles slowly to and when I say slowly, I mean slowly – between 11-12 minute miles and no faster.

What I am finding when I do this is that first of all, it takes forever to run these miles (like an hour and 20 minutes) but this week my mental issue with running the distance slower was better than last week. Meaning, I planned to run for an hour and twenty mintues.

Now why on earth would I practice running slower? I mean, isn’t the goal to run fast? Well, ultimately, yes, you do want to run fast but you cannot run fast all the time. It takes a lot of time and patience to run slowly and the best way to condition my body to “accept” running seven miles is to become proficient at merely jogging these miles. When I do this, my body will adapt through a series of biological changes which will effectively improve my VO2 max, muscle conditioning, and use of resources (sugar) in my body.

This concept is not new and when I took my coach certification course, that was the message of the day. You see, we cannot merely run ourselves into the ground. Optimal conditioning comes from merely going the distance. It does not come from running the distance as fast as possible because if you do that, I will guarantee, you will end up injured.

By slowing down, I am giving my body a “rest” while I condition it to go further. So for me with a nagging hamstring, my hamstrings don’t need to work so hard if I am jogging instead of running full throddle, and while I am jogging, I am conditioning my muscles instead of straining them.

I am also conditioning the hardest “muscle,” my brain.  The mental difficulties of slogging along are major for me. I figure if I am running this slowly I might as well stop. I try to run 2 miles in 18 minutes or less, but when I look at the clock and my first two miles are completed in 23 to 24 minutes, my mind starts to go nuts. Suddenly, it seems impossible to fathom that I need to run for another hour to acheive my seven miles. In my crazy days, I’d be trying to run these miles in about an 1:07 or less.

So yesterday I ran my seven miles in about 1:22. In fact, I only ran about 6 and 3/4 miles before  Icouldn’t take it anymore and just walked the last quarter mile.  The week before, I had petered out at 6 and 1/4 miles so I went a 1/2 mile further this week before I mentally burned out.

Two weeks from now, I will complete my long, slow distance of seven miles I hope at a long slow average pace of 11:30 per mile.  Because I do this mileage on a treadmill I often get bored and speed up to a 10 minute mile for a little bit just to make me feel like I am getting ahead (which I am not I am merely loosing the mental battle). Ultimately, I hope this exercise will help me train through the mental anquish of running so slowly. In the end, I just want to be injury free.

That, my friends, is my running goal.

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