Running on the Edge of Improvement or Injury
Almost every sport is the same. A ski racer skis on the edge of taking the fastest line down the mountain and crashing out ending a season or a career. Race car drivers get as close to the bumper in front of them. One small uneven tap to that bumper in front at 190mph and a great draft could be turned to major pile up on the back stretch. Runners do the same things with the same subtleties. To improve in running you have to push yourself to the edge. Runners push themselves in two ways either through extended distance or through intensity. Fortunately most understand where the edge is and learn to back off at the right time. Others simply go over the edge hoping for a good outcome.
In the last week I’ve come across three different runners on the edge. One is running 50 miles a week feeling much better than expected. One has upped his mileage to 40 miles a week and feeling heavy fatigue. One was foolish. He felt a twinge in his knee while upping his mileage. He ignored it as “part of running”. He jumped over the edge and has not run in 4 weeks because that twinge turned into a tear.
The second runner posted on a forum about his fatigue. I suggested he contact the first runner to find out what he may be doing to feel so good. The third runner corrected me on the forum by saying and I am paraphrasing “fatigue is normal”. Fatigue is normal but too much is not and a twinge is not. Runner one is doing something right and that something is recovery.
1. When you are executing a focused block of training, maybe it’s 4-8 weeks of 50 miles a week, you need to cut back somewhere else in your life. You simply can’t do it all. For triathletes that’s easy, cut back on your other sports. For runners it’s slightly more difficult but you instinctively know where your are pushing too hard in your life.
2. Sleep – If you are averaging 5 hours of sleep a night and that works for you, you may need 6 during your focused period. If you average 5 hours of sleep a night and that works for you then you are a really special person. Most athletes can’t make it on so little sleep. Don’t fool yourself on sleep. If you wake up tired you aren’t getting enough sleep.
3. Mobility – Self massage and stretch are so easy you’re a fool if you don’t use them. Find what works and stick to it. Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett is the best book every written on the subject.
4. Fuel – Pay attention to the quality and amount of food during focused blocks. Slow burning natural foods are better than fast burning food in a box. It makes sense you are burning more so you need more. Just make sure you are siding with quality of food first.
5. Supplement – No I’m not talking about pills and potions. If you struggle with recovery find a supplemental recovery tool. The most promoted in triathlon is Normatec. There are new kids on the block, Footbeat and Theragun. None of these replace the first 4 but they sure will help if recovery is hard to come by.