Wanna run long? Forget about running
"A chain is no stronger than its weakest link"
Most, if not all, distance runners certainly don't seem to neglect their high milage training. 100 or even 200 mile weeks aren't unheard of.
But if putting in thousands of miles in training is the way to prepare for going long, why do so many runners blow up when the going gets tough?
I'll tell you why: they don't realize that it's not about the running at all.
Confused? Let me elaborate...
Need a crowbar?
Most endurance athletes subscribe to the no pain, no gain train of thought, and basically train themselves into the ground.
As a runner friend of mine who runs a lot of miles puts it: "If it thrashes your legs, it's gotta be good training".
I usually reply: "Well, why don't you just beat your legs with a crowbar for an hour and a half instead? You could watch TV at the same time and STILL wreck your legs". (you can tell our conversations are carried out in the thinnest intellectual air...)
If only putting in a consistent hard training effort was all it took, everyone could be a great endurance athlete. Well guess what: everyone can, and it doesn't even take kamikaze training.
Building true resilience
Of course you have to train for distance running in order to get there, but you need to pay just as much attention to a lot of other things too, or the running won't matter.
If you lag behind in any of these extra focus areas, your running performance will suffer and you can not make up for it by running more miles.
We could go into endless detail about each item in this list but for now I'll just mention them all briefly to ensure that they're on your radar in the first place.
In no particluar order:
Probably the most overlooked element in training. You don't get stronger when you train, you get stronger when you rest and sleep. Don't bust your butt to chisel in hard training if you can't follow up with good sleep, or you will start to spiral your health downwards.
Sleep is definitely the cheapest, most potent doping you can ever get your hands on. As The Fruitarian once put it in an interview: "I could run 50 miles every day, if only I would get 10 hours of sleep too".
Aim to get eight hours of quality sleep each night, and as much as possible before midnight.
It seems obvious that endurance athletes should strive towards some type of LCHF diet in order to become better fat burners. This is a religious topic though, so let's just close it at striving towards a balanced diet without too much junk.
Read Metabolic Efficiency Training to see how simple it really is to become a fat burning machine.
- Strength work
Most runners are weaklings. I'm not saying that you should become an olympic weight lifter in order to run better (though you certainly would), but do incorporate strength training into your training routine, and use free weights - or simply your own body weight - instead of hitting the stupid machine parks in the gym.
I'll do my best to translate my strength training for runners article ASAP, but until then, try a Google Translate on the thing if you want some strength training inspiration.
Defined as strength + flexibility = mobility, this is what you want. No need to be a flexible rubber band if you don't have the strength to keep it all together. This also explains why there isn't a "flexibility" bullet in this list.
- Running form
Since this is how I a make a living, obviously I'm big on this one. What good is it to run lots of miles if it's all carried out with the elegance of a pinguin.
All movement should be efficient and elegant. All other sports obsess about technique - of course we need to do the same as runners. You can check out Running Injury Free for more on this slot.
- Diversity in training
Do you run all your miles in the same pace, day in, day out? My favorite quote from Train Hard, Win Easy by Toby Tanser on the training methods of Kenyan runners: "Your slow runs are too fast and your fast runs are too slow".
For inspiration on how to shake things up, read Go Hard and Then Go Home by my friend Steve, a.k.a the Sock Doc.
- Endurance training
Finally. Of course you need to carry out endurance training and longer runs in order to tackle ultra marathons, but don't pay any more attention to running than to all of the above...
Now grade yourself in all of these and make one simple pledge: Focus your efforts on the items with the lowest score - I bet you won't find that you need to put in more miles of running.
Don't fool yourself into believing that more running can fix all the other vectors, or you too will blow up on race day or break down and injure yourself before even making it to the start line.
Build the strongest, most resilient chain possible, and when people ask whether you're putting in the required miles for going long, just smile and wave.
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