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Archive for May 2nd, 2008

This issue has come front and center. With a heavy training workload, I have to ensure my downtimes are few to get the maximum benefit from consistent training. The following are a short list of things I pay attention to, and which have kept me healthy to this day:

1. Plenty of rest or recovery days — insist on it. I know plenty of runners who run each day, but I question the logic of doing it. You never give your body any rest. The risk of micro-fractures is also great.

2. Consistent amount of sleep — you’ll eventually run out of time, but cut everything else short first before you sacrifice sleep.

3. Protein, calcium, vitamins, carbohydrates — these are what I call the four pillars. Protein to keep the muscle breakdown/build-up going, calcium for the bones, vitamins for minerals (especially iron), and carbohydrates to have a consistent energy supply. Skimp on any one of these and you risk breaking down.

4. Plenty of water — drink a lot of it. You don’t want to further stress a system already undergoing a lot of exercise stress. Water flushes the system and just contributes to your overall well-being.

5. Make allowances for age — you won’t bounce back from a hard effort as quickly as a 20-year old can. Fine if you are genetically gifted, but knowing your limitations (and listening to your body) will often save you from an unnecessary injury.

6. Don’t overdo it — that one extra lap, that extra push will probably not help. In my case, I have a bad habit of thinking 23 is better than 22. Stick to the plan.

7. Get some relief — we all need to have a vacation from ourselves every now and then. I sometimes pretend I am normal Joe from the street and I’d pretend I am the other extreme. Having this mindset makes you truly slow down, and you get to see the sunshine and smell the air. As long as you don’t get carried away, this quick vacation will keep you healthy.

8. Get away from pain meds — there will be some pain connected to strenuous activity. It takes the body a while to flush toxins, so the signs will linger. Pain meds only mask these signs, but are in general bad for you. Some runners will use pain meds to run through injury, using it as a mild anaesthetic to quiet down the body’s signals. You push the body hard enough and it will break down.  If I can count to 10 the number of pain meds I’ve taken in a decade, I’d be very surprised.

9. Stay focused, but don’t take it too seriously — becoming too involved with something is also a big stressor. Work the plan and stay on it. Adjust if you skip something, but don’t get an ulcer with the details.

10. Stay with the tried and true — know what works for you and stick to it. There will always be advice, but generic ones may hurt more than help. Do examine your tried and true habits only with a competent sports coach.

I hope you’ll do well with your training. Please stay injury-free and be safe out there!

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I often struggle with set schedules. Something about a set routine makes me want to do something else.

It never fails. I will spend a good two weeks putting in a good hard/easy schedule of training runs. And then something about my life or work schedule changes, and the well-meant training schedule gets thrown out. I create sophisticated spreadsheets with color-coded combinations of run training/cross training and then it gets used for a month and then it gradually fades from view.

It’s not a matter of lack of focus. I do care about the long term, the evidence being my being in the sport for a good decade now. I care about my health and a healthy lifestyle. The adage “slow and steady wins the race” is an apt description of me as an athlete. What that race is remains to be discovered.

I know of one runner who went from running 4HR marathons to regularly getting a BQ (Boston qualifying time) with each marathon. He is about 6 years older than me, and his BQ time requirement is only 10 minutes off from what mine would be. I know he trains consistently, possibly with a coach. He does have a supportive wife who probably motivates him as well. It is counter-intuitive but encouraging; as he ages, his times get better.

I ran my first track workout yesterday with a new coach. My aim is to do the work quietly and without complaint–just do the work to the best of my abilities. Yes it was tough, since I never had the structure. But then I noticed that I was among the few who were there to see it through. It might also be that the other runners present were just not in as good a shape.

I am motivated to improve. I am motivated to see if I can achieve my potential in this sport by proper training. I am motivated to get out of this plateau in my physical fitness and get stronger in all areas. But I am also motivated to seek a balance, so that I won’t get burned out or injured.

I am excited about having a elite-level coach who is battle-experienced; if I don’t learn from him, it will be my fault. As a coach myself, I need to absorb all the good things he does for the benefit of my future clients. But that will be another story.

So for now, I have to take it one step at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time. Make every hour count. Make every opportunity count.

I hope you examine your motivations too, so that you’ll be a better athlete for it.

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