By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
April 28, 2016
There is nothing pleasant about running. I can admit that myself. There is rarely a day where I go into a run and suspect my life will be complete for doing so. But truthfully, I have never been one to enjoy all the things that running has to offer. I am constantly bombarded with the negatives day in and day out, wondering what I am doing for the sake of my body and my sanity. I guess there is a good purpose for me, as in I seek newer ways to challenge myself and going for a much longer distance is something you can use for a personal fitness gauge. Truthfully, I really have no clue why I do it anymore. I seem to be stuck in one speed—average—and I have had so much trouble trying to break that string that it seems near impossible for me. But I am stupid and most importantly, I am stubborn. Maybe I am just too stuck on the stress relief aspect, or maybe I am too addicted to the high I get from the endorphins. Of maybe I just want a whole bunch of race medals! Call it what you will in regards to my life. Maybe it is the lack of a television that is keeping me going back for more in the running game. Maybe it is the lack of a girlfriend that keeps me doing it, because if you have no one to really spend your time with, might as well hit the gym or go running. Or maybe it is because of a lot of other decisions in my life, where I have decided to go with something and stick with it because it seems too stupid to stop doing it now that I have put the time, money and effort into doing so.
So I stick with running, even though it causes some fatigue and causes little bouts of anger, mainly because I really do want to get better but I just don’t seem to have the will or the strength to do it. This is where the true conundrum lies for me. I have mentioned the delicate balance I seek when it comes to finding the right amount of muscle and the right amount of running ability for my fitness regimen. There is a great jealousy in my heart and soul, where I see the success of others and wish it was my own, for those qualities above all else make me wish I could just work out all day and do what I want. But, I must continue with the life I am doing right now, for I need to keep focusing on my goals despite the belly fat and the soreness and the slowness of foot. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. Effort is still the true divining rod in the fitness game, for it we keep it out in the cold storm, it will eventually get hit by some lighting and give you the jolt you need. Right now, the jolt is a little diminished for me. When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I really didn’t want to do a run, even though I kind of raced myself to awake at 5 a.m. I certainly ran better than I have been recently, where I have been getting caught in the early evening heat. I finished a short 3.36-mile run with a 9:09 per mile speed, which was pretty solid even though I really need to start extending that distance and maintaining that speed. It was certainly better than what I did the previous Sunday.
You see, Tucson was holding it’s first ever Veg Festival, and I felt obligated to go to the event simply because I am already a vegan and I need to show the world that I am about as normal as can be. I came up with the stupid idea that day to run to the festival, which was in downtown Tucson at a little place called the Whistlestop Depot. It’s an abandoned train station from yesteryear that was been turned into a du jour venue for proms and weddings. By my estimates, it was only a good five miles from my house, and so I figured a decent little run wouldn’t hurt. Well, I started my run around 12:30 in the afternoon, which was a bad idea because the weather was a little worse than I thought it would be. Now 82 degrees doesn’t sound much, but man, the dry hate of a warm Arizona day certainly got the better of me. It was maybe 85 degrees by the time I got to the festival, and I made pretty decent time, running 5.15 miles in the process despite nearly dying on the way up. Yup, I was that weird guy at the front gate, heaving and sweating like a rain cloud. I was pretty happy I did that, because it ultimately saved me the trouble of finding a place to park in an area that really wasn’t suited for a major event. Anyway, I met some good people while I was there, including Facebook friends I have never had a chance to actually see in real life. I witnessed a couple of decent lectures and once again got to see the variety of non-dairy and meat free food is available to me. But there was one little problem for me. I just didn’t have enough food to eat. I got a little veggie wrap from this food truck that was visiting, but I was unable to get anything from Veg in a Box, for they sold out of all there food (as did some other places that had actual food). I did share this rather cool pineapple concoction with a Facebook friend that had come all the way down from Phoenix to check out the festival…but it really wasn’t enough food for me. I was initially going to get my own but some people behind us kind of guilt tripped me into going “dutch” with my friend Mandi so they could experience the awesomeness of what we were about to enjoy. Other than that, I really had no other food at the festival. Since I already have enough exposure to good brownie products thanks to PHOD, I really didn’t feel like buying any of that stuff. But the veggie burgers had all run out the, the non-beef hotdogs had all been sold and the Mexican food people had already packed up and left, selling out quickly since Mexican food goes pretty fast in these neck of the woods. So around 5:45, I took off for home, giving a high five to another Facebook friend I met that day named Ndem running a little faster pace than I did going to the Whistestop Depot. Well, it wasn’t really the soreness or the heat that got to me on the way back, it was just the flat out fatigue. I had no real nourishment.
Not that day was really a test for me. I’m trying to prep myself for an Ultra version of the Ragnar Trail Series, and this would be my first foray into what I should expect. While the temperature might not be the same so to speak, the difficulty will certainly be. I mean, I ran a little less than four hours after my initial run, and this was my first simulation. If I am able to do the Ragnar Ultra come November, I will most likely be running a leg every four hours. While the distances will certainly be unique on the three main paths I will be on (eight miles, four miles and three miles), this is still a pretty tall order for me. It won’t get any easier for me as the summer approaches, and this has me worried. First of all, I want to improve my distance as well as improve my speed….regardless of whether I get enough money to do the race. I’ve already got some ideas that I will need to utilize, but the first and foremost one is I need to improve my running distance. Right now, I am in a bit of a holding pattern with the running, for just about every day I try to go for a run these days, I don’t really feel like doing a long on. If anything, I really need to get my butt moving and start utilizing longer distances. Before my little injury in early March, I had managed to do nine miles with a sub-10-minute-mile pace. That's petty awesome for me, and I was ready to start attempting half marathon distances when I started having troubles with my ankles. Turns out working all day in some awful shoes is not really all that good for you! Now I have a new conundrum…should I keep using the ever so difficult Santa Cruz River Wash or try to find some flatter lands. I mean, the entire wash is like a pulsating wavelength on a screen, careening up and down with no real rhyme or reason and putting your legs through hell. I’m gonna have to think about that for a little bit.
Now the other part about increasing my distance is going to come in the gym and come at home. Some suggestions I have been seeing as of late is not necessarily in regards to the frequency or the rep counts on your weight sets…but more on the actual weight itself. You see, when one gets not the idea of doing a lot of distance running, you get a couple things stuck in your head. 1) You need to stay leaner and not be bulky and 2) Getting more reps with lighter weights should do the trick in creating strength. But here are the logic problems with those ways of thinking. Unless you intend to challenge for the world record in the marathon, being leaner is not necessarily the goal. The goal in running is generating power through the legs, and creating a pace that can be achieved through full body workouts. The tricky part of the equation is how well does weight training help? https://runnersconnect.net/running-training-articles/benefits-of-strength-training-for-runners/ Studies have been performed in regards to these questions and have proven that traditional weight regimens will certainly aid ingesting that speed up. There has also been plenty of evidence to show just how beneficial “explosive” training can be to a runner. Since running is considered an explosive movement in some circles, doing this kind of training can really aid in shaving off the seconds. What explosive training implies is the idea of utilizing workout movements—albeit with lighter weights—to continue the process of running. Doing something like weight squat push presses or doing multiple hang cleans or dead lifts will aid in the strengthening and the explosion needed to run up those hills or give you the boost you need during those final few miles.
There has also been some other ideas in regards to the weight lifting debate. Go heavy! You heard that right, go after your personal bests and keep trying to beat them. Now naturally, this isn’t some call to try and do a never-ending stream of lifts to prove the point, what this means is to focus mostly on the weight as opposed to the reps. Rathe than doing those 15-20 reps on the lower weight, why not attempt 5-8 reps on a much heavier scale. Look at it this way. I could do deadlifts for days at 205, but will doing 50-100 reps like I have done in the past really help me? I mean, I might get on Fail Army if I am not careful, for the fatigue might cause me to faint and such. But what I have been doing lately is doing less reps and trying to increase my weight. This is something some experts have suggested, especially since runners are already doing a pretty active and explosive movement in the very “art” of running. It is certainly a delicate balance, for if you go too heavy, you might find yourself seriously debilitating your ability to run a longer distance.
Of course, there will always be some differing opinions about how to make yourself stronger in regards to running. Doing any kind of weight lifting will certainly help your cause. Long distances certainly require a much more delicate balance between strength and body weight, but it really boils down to how much you really want to improve!
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.