Category Archives: Training

Nobody cares how much you know…

…until they know how much you care.

That is the case with all kinds of service, from telephone companies to restaurants, from car washes to politics. Nobody cares how much you know about something until they feel you care about them.

One recent example I found in my massage therapist. From day one Anastasia proved not just to be friendly and accommodating, she also showed in many ways that she really wants to help and cares about your well being, as a client and as a friend.

She went out of her way to learn about my long distance running, to figure out what would be the the points more affected, the muscles that would require the most attention, the methods that would yield the most results. She took the time to run with me, to learn barefoot running herself, to figure out how to make her massage sessions much more effective than they would be otherwise.

That is a quality, a human quality, that we should bring to every aspect of our lives: Kindness. That is the one quality that will make you a better professional, a better friend, better at anything you put yourself into.

UPDATE:

Anastasia has been stalking me… ughhhhnn… welll… hum ham… she has been following me online during these four months I have been on the road and her support, encouragement, and good humor have been fabulous.

I seem to have an amazing capacity to locate and connect to the best people, the most generous and loving ones, and they always become great friends. Here is one of those great beings!

Before and After

Before: Couch potato, 235 lbs, low energy, feeling old.
After: Athlete, 175 lbs, high energy, feeling at least 10 years younger.

This will sound like one of those obnoxious advertisings for questionable diet products we can see on TV after midnight. But the contrast is so sharp and noticeable that I can’t avoid writing about it.

By the time I decided to run across the country in late August 2010, my weight was hovering around 235 lbs. In addition to that I was snoring a lot, had very low energy, and was feeling my age. I was so out of shape that the first day of training I couldn’t run more than a quarter mile!

A couple of years ago I visited a very well known plastic surgeon in the Boston area to learn about how I could lose the weight and get in shape with the use of a credit card. Of course he was happy to help me and explained that he would first perform an extensive amount of liposuction. But then I would have a significant amount of lose skin that would have to be reduced by an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) and a gynecomastia (breast reduction for men). The total recovery time for all that would be some six weeks or more, and the total cost would be around 26 thousand dollars!

In addition to that I would have to be very careful with my diet for months in order to not regain the weight I just lost. I would need to work out to reshape by body considerably because I would have a relatively lean mid-body while my arms, legs, and neck would still be showing some fat. In general I would still be a bit round around the edges.

By running like I am doing I already lost all that weight that would be sucked out of my body by liposuction, plus some. Because I did it along the course of several weeks my skin had the opportunity to flex back in size to some extent and I am thinking that I will be able to avoid the abdominoplasty altogether! The breasts are also reducing and I am quite confident that I will not require a gynecomastia.

After finishing this run I will do plenty of body work to increase some upper body and that will get me exactly at the shape I want. Without surgeries, without the incredible expense, without guilt about eating or drinking the things I like the most.

Above all I already mentioned, I am really feeling a level of energy and enthusiasm I didn’t have since I was maybe in my 20’s. It is truly like as if in these four months of running I got some 10… maybe 15 years younger!

I started this run with a set of yellow shirts size XL. In Houston I switched to size L. Since El Paso I am already wearing shirts size M. So far I dropped some 50lbs, and I believe that during these last 3 weeks of running between Phoenix and Los Angeles another 10 lbs or so will be gone.

Oh, and one last thing: There was some concern expressed by friends about stress injuries or other consequences of working out so much, so often, for so long. So far none of that happened. My body recovers faster than it used to. My immune system seems to be working at it’s best. I don’t even take any pain medicine. Not even Ibuprofen!

Yes, I took some pictures of me before starting and I will take some pictures after I finish in Los Angeles. And yes I will post those before and after pictures here. They will show how much my body changed.

In regards to how much my mind changed and how much happier I am… Pictures can’t even begin to tell how much!

Running form

There is no single correct way to run. However there are certain characteristics that seem to be common to most great runners. Striving to run like them will not guarantee you can become a great runner, but it will make it easier to become the best runner you can be.

High stride rate in relation to speed, a tendency to strike the ground on midfoot or forefoot, more time in the air and less ground contact time, knees bent during contact, relaxed and upright upper body.

Four out of five runners overstride, landing their feet ahead of their body, heel-first, causing running injuries. Barefoot runners can’t do it because heel striking is immediately painful, but runners in shoes keep doing it without noticing.

Easy, light, smooth, fast

Christopher McDougal’s book “Born to Run” has done amazing things for my training. The four points “easy, light, smooth, and fast” have simplified what I am paying attention to on each run. I highly recommend this book for all runners, and anyone who likes a great true drama story. The book is about a group of Mexican ultrarunners called the Tarahumara.

The points:

  • Easy – If it’s not easy, you’re working too hard. Slow down, take smaller steps, and simplify.
  • Light – Be light on your feet. Your joints aren’t made to POUND into the ground.
  • Smooth – Make your movements smooth and efficient. Excessive bouncing wastes energy. You want to move forward, not up.
  • Fast – Fast will happen naturally when you master easy, light, and smooth.

I got it easy already, becoming light and smooth now. I believe that by the time I reach California I will also be fast. We will see.

How to speed up recovery

Do you know what to do after exercise to speed your recovery from a workout? Your post exercise routine can have a big impact on your fitness gains and sports performance but most people don’t have an after exercise recovery plan.

Most people exercise for the benefits they get from their workout: improved sports performance, better endurance, less body fat, added and even just feeling better. In order to maintain an exercise routine it’s important to recover fully after exercise. Recovery is an essential part of any workout routine. It allows you to train more often and train harder so you get more out of your training.

The biggest challenge or running long distances every day is not the running itself. I would even say that running is the easy part! The challenge is to recover enough in just 14-18 hours between one run and the next so to not cause damage and injury.

Recovery after exercise is essential to muscle and tissue repair and strength building. This is even more critical after an intense running practice. Normally a muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, and working it again too soon simply leads to tissue breakdown instead of building up.

These are the ways I found most effective, for me, to speed up recovery:

Recovery time

Sounds obvious but isn’t. If you spend 8-10 hours on your feet, running and walking, you must spend the next 14-16 hours of the day doing other things like relaxing laying down, lightly stretching, massaging, and of course sleeping. What I don’t recommend is sitting down. Interestingly if I sit down for more than a few minutes I feel my legs stiffening and my feet hurt more. Anything else is fine, just not sitting down.

Massage

Massage feels good and improves circulation while allowing you to fully relax. You can also try self-massage and Foam Roller Exercises for easing tight muscles and avoid the heavy sports massage price tag.

When I had some muscle and tendon pain on my left leg, right in the 3rd week of training, I had that taken care of with some deep tissue massage and one additional day of rest. Amazing results for something that would slow down my training for quite a while!

Cool Down

Cooling down simply means slowing down (not stopping completely) after exercise. Continuing to move around at a very low intensity for 5 to 10 minutes after a workout helps remove lactic acid from your muscles and may reduce muscles stiffness. So I try to just walk and more about a few mintes before getting into a car or stopping for a meal.

Taking a brief cold bath after a run may limit the tissue swelling that follows muscle damage. Most runners also swear by ice baths for the same reason.

Keep your body warm after your run. If your clothes are cold and wet from sweat or precipitation, change into warm clothes as soon as possible.

Stretch

If you only do one thing after a tough workout, consider gentle stretching. This is a simple and fast way to help your muscles recover. I also stretch a bit every 8 miles or so, and during the last ¼ of the run I stretch every 2 miles or so. I feel that it makes it a lot easier overall. Notice that I wrote “gentle” stretching. A lot of people try to push their stretching to a point that they get injured by stretching rather than the exercise!

Stretch the rest of your body, especially your calves, quadriceps and hamstrings, for 10 to 20 minutes at the trailhead while you’re still warm. Stretch the rest of your body, especially your calves, quadriceps and hamstrings, for 10 to 20 minutes at the end of the run while you’re still warm.

Eat Properly

After depleting your energy stores with exercise, you need to refuel if you expect your body to recover, repair tissues, get stronger and be ready for the next challenge. This is even more important if you are performing endurance exercise day after day or trying to build muscle. Ideally, you should try to eat within 60 minutes of the end of your workout and make sure you include some high-quality protein and complex carbohydrate.

There is also some recent evidence suggesting that consuming modest amounts of protein during long runs may lessen muscle damage and improve recovery.

Eating properly has a major impact. When you finish a run you have plenty of damaged muscle fibers in your legs, low glycogen level, and you may be dehydrated. Good nutrition is what will correct those physiological imbalances. You must take protein to repair and build muscles, liquids to rehydrate, and slow processing fibers as well.

Replace Fluids

You lose a lot of fluid during exercise and ideally, you should be replacing it during exercise, but filling up after exercise is an easy way to boost your recovery. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body and having plenty of water will improve every bodily function. Adequate fluid replacement is even more important for endurance athletes who lose large amounts of water during hours of sweating.

I like to drink beer and if you do drink any alcoholic beverage make sure that you drink some water first, and keep the amount of alcohol reasonable. Some cold beers after a long run feel great and have a “pain killer” effect, but make you feel lousy the next morning, so exercise some discretion.

Active Recovery

Easy, gentle movement improves circulation which helps promote nutrient and waste product transport throughout the body. In theory, this helps the muscles repair and refuel faster.

Ice Bath

Some athletes swear by ice baths, ice massage or contrast water therapy (alternating hot and cold showers) to recover faster, reduce muscle soreness and prevent injury. The theory behind this method is that by repeatedly constricting and dilating blood vessels helps remove (or flush out) waste products in the tissues. Limited research has found some benefits of contrast water therapy at reducing delayed onset muscle soreness.

How to use contrast water therapy: While taking your post-exercise shower, alternate 2 minutes of hot water with 30 seconds of cold water. Repeat four times with a minute of moderate temperatures between each hot-cold spray. If you happen to have a spa with hot and cold tubs available, you can take a plunge in each for the same time.

Sleep

Get Lots of Sleep. Optimal sleep is essential for anyone who exercises regularly. During sleep, your body produces Growth Hormone (GH) which is largely responsible for tissue growth and repair. I used to sleep an average of 6-7 hours per night, and since I began training I have been sleeping 9-11 hours, sometimes more. That is one of the “side effect” of growth hormone release.

Elevate

It helps relax your legs if you can keep them elevated for a while. Usually I do it for 30 minutes or more. A couch, the bed and some pillows, a lounge chair, those and many other places are appropriate to invert your body or at least keep your legs up for a while.

Make it enjoyable

People who enjoy an activity, be it sports or anything else, are the ones who tend to stick with it over the long term. Some people make their practice, if not their lives, a constant struggle. They seem to always be measuring themselves in contrast with some distant ideal, feeling bad about how far they are from it. Then they keep pushing harder and harder, in a tense and stressful way.

It is important to have a goal and work towards it, but this effort has to be balanced with a lighthearted attitude and a constant search for enjoyment. There are always opportunities to make it enjoyable.

One example of it was the first time I did a 16 mile session. Before that most of my training happened on the beach or on South Point Park, and that day I decided to take the streets and run from 1st St to 95th in Miami Beach, then I would do the same way back and that was going to be 16 miles. What I miscalculated is that South Point Park is a very flat, very smooth surface, and the beach is not too bad either. Running on the streets you have to keep switching directions, going up and down curbs, avoiding all kinds of obstacles. The stress on my feet and ancles was so much more intense that by the time I reached 95th St I was in more pain than ever, and returning home was a slow walk until I reached 55th St. At that point the pain was so intense I couldn’t walk really, it was more like a careful and slow limping… and I still had some 4 miles to go. At this point I decided to forget the pace and walk to the beach, and put my feet under the cool ocean water. The soothing effect was amazing. I changed the music in my iPhone to some of my favorite and most uplifting motivational talks, and just walked back by the water, varying my moves and enjoying the amazing view of South Beach under a near full moon. It was still not easy, but much better than insisting on a horribly painful routine on the street. The next day my feet and ancles were more sore than usual, but I was well recovered in just another 24 hours.

We can all work hard and still stay within enjoyment. That 16mile limit that was so hard for me that day is a short distance for me now that I am running 20 miles or more at a time. It was more important to preserve my state of mind than to preserve an arbitrary goal of time or distance for that particular day.

Training in California

Had a chance to run with Eden in late September, once on the beach in Marina Del Rey, and once at Griffith Park.

At the park I arranged my tshirt in my head in a way that we had to call “running Taliban”. In fact I got a lot of weird looks from the other park visitors.

After that, back to the Red Lion for great german beer and beef tartar. Yay!