Who Are You Listening To?

The web has nearly as much training advice as it does kittens.  The problem is, whatever you’re into, you can find both a loyal supporter and a staunch critic.  Whether it’s Crossfit, nutrition, training plans, or gear, the debate goes on and on.  At the top of the running field, you’ll find vegans, paleos, barefoot runners, high miles, low miles, and everything in between.  So who do you listen to?  How do you know who’s saying the right thing?  The answer is clear. All of them and none of them.  For the average runner, comparing yourself to the elites doesn’t make sense.  If you have a life and a regular job, you’re likely not able to train like an elite athlete.  You’re not eating 5,000 calories a day, taking ice baths, naps, and getting massages (if you are, please explain).  This wide range of philosophies tells us that average runners need a little bit of everything in our training plan.

Here are a couple of things to consider when putting together your plan

Diet. The average runner/athlete needs a good diet that they can sustain and be happy with.  It should be one that delivers the right mix of calories, carbs, and protein for your goals.  I’m moving in a vegetarian direction, but I still eat meat about once a week along with eggs. I’ve tried to limit prepackaged foods as much as possible, and I’ll never give up donuts.

Shoes. The average runner/athlete needs to understand how they run and what shoe(s) will work best for them.  It really doesn’t matter what kind of shoe your favorite hero wears.  I use 4 different shoes depending on terrain, mood, and planned activity (also a good excuse to buy more shoes).

Cross Training. The average runner/athlete needs cross-training to get stronger, avoid injury, and burnout.  Going to the gym saved my running “career”.  I joined because I was bored.  after a few months and low miles, I noticed I was getting much stronger and felt better than ever when I did run.  Ultimately, this led to running my 1st ultra on just 20 miles a week.

Mileage. The average runner needs to know what their body is craving.  It might be different that what your predefined training plan is calling for.  I wrote out a 40 week training plan for the LT run, and I adjusted it almost daily to satisfy different cravings. You might not have 50 mile/week knees, and the good news is you might not need them.  There is more than one way to train your running muscles.

So who do you listen to, and what are they saying?

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Average to Ultra on 20 Miles a Week

What would you say if I told you you could finish in the top 20 percent of your first ultramarathon with 6 months of training on an average of 20 miles a week?  Sounds crazy right.  I proved this to be true yesterday finishing the Traprock 50K in 5:55:57, 23rd out of 88 finshers (130 starters).  Obviously I did more than run 20 miles a week, but the point is, you don’t need to destroy your legs and pound out the miles to build up the ability to run far.

My typical training week looked like this:

Monday : Off
Tuesday: 5 Miles – road run
Wednesday: Crossfit
Thursday: 5 Miles – road run
Friday: Crossfit + 50 minute soccer game
Saturday: Longer Run – Trail
Sunday: Longer Run – Trail

There was flexibility in the schedule. Sometimes I’d do an extra day at the gym or run hills instead of a Saturday long run, sometimes I took an extra day off.  Over 6 months, 8 weeks were considered heavy mileage with totals of 35, 27, 28, 44, 30, 32, 29, 46 (includes race). The other 18 weeks had totals of 25 or less, and 14 of those with mileage under 20.

Now, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking you can skip today’s run, you probably can’t.  The work I put in at the gym is the only reason I was able to do this.  Without it, I would have been bored by now.  I wouldn’t have the mental toughness, and I wouldn’t have the overall physical strength for a trail race.  Thanks again to the guys at Crossfit Relentless for your help.

Next Goal: VT Long Trail – 272 miles in 10 days.

Festivus 2 ReCap

Saturday was the 2nd Annual Festivus Competition at Crossfit Relentless.  This competition was for Novice and Intermediate athletes. There were 2 divisions each for men and women.

NOVICE – Women’s (2k row over 9:30, deadlift under 200, cannot do 5 pull ups in a row unassisted)

NOVICE – Men’s (2k row over 8:30, deadlift under 300, cannot do 10 pull ups in a row unassisted)

INTERMEDIATE – Women’s (2k row under 9:30, deadlift over 200, can do 5 kipping pull ups in a row)

INTERMEDIATE – Men’s (2k row under 8:30, deadlift over 300, can do 10 or more kipping pull ups in a row)

I put myself in the Intermediate men’s division with a 2k Row of 7:10, 295 Deadlift, and 20 Pull-Ups.  This was my first event with Crossfit, and I really didn’t know what to expect.  I felt I was in the best shape possible and was ready for anything.  The WODs were announced on Monday and included rowing, skiing, cleans, and a few things I’ve never done like shotput and sandbags.  When I got to the box in the morning, I had a chance to look at some of the events and check out the competition.  There was a wide range of ages, sizes, and fitness levels represented.  It was really cool to see everyone not only giving everything they had, but supporting their fellow athletes.  Many competitors achieved a personal best or had the strength to conquer a tough event.  It was a great atmosphere.

Overall, I’m very pleased with my performance.  My best event was the 1000m Row in a time of 3:28.  This was good enough for 10th overall.  I had a PR in the clean at 165lbs where my previous best was 155lbs. I’m not sure there was much more I could do in the shot put, and the sandbags were a bitch.  I got 14 reps with a 50lb. sandbag over an 8′ bar. The winner crushed this event with 41. Unless I grow about 4 inches, I don’t think I’ll ever get 41 bags, but I think I could get 20 with a little practice.  The tiredrag/overhead lunge combo in WOD 1 was pretty mean.  As I was walking over to this event, I was thinking that this one looked easy on the board.  In my experience, this is a bad sign.  When you turn at the halfway point with the tire, your momentum is gone, it gets real heavy, and your thighs are on fire.  When you pick up the dumbbell for the overhead lunges, you curse whoever thought this up.  This portion doesn’t even count for your score, so you know they are just trying to break you down for the shot put. Not only have most of the athletes never put the shot, now they don’t even have the legs for it. CrossFit Genius. I looked up some videos on technique and was able to muster 26′ with a 12 pound shot.

One of the hardest parts was staying loose and ready to go over the course of 4 hours.  It was a good exercise in eating and hydrating during the competition. I’ll be looking forward to the next opportunity to compete with other CrossFitters.

Here are videos of each  of my workouts.

7 Good things about CrossFit

After doing the Hartford half marathon last year, I kind of got bored with road running. Winter was brutal, and I didn’t have my eyes on any compelling running goals.  I needed a break.  I plodded through the winter with co-ed rec soccer (more on that later) and swimming.  By the Spring, I was working on getting the miles back, but I wasn’t feelin’ it.  A friend of mine was working out at an MMA gym and that sounded fun, but ultimately I probably don’t want to ‘ground and pound’ for very long.  I was, however, looking for something mean and nasty.  A workout Rocky would be proud of.  I wanted something that would keep me active, motivate me to improve, and kick my ass.  I think I found it at CrossFit.

Here are 7 highlights of my CrossFit experience so far.

Fun.  I’ve always hated going to the gym.  I’ve been a member at several gyms and wasted every penny.  I liked the idea of being in good shape, but didn’t know how to work out and wasn’t really wanting a club trainer.  If you’re looking at CrossFit as a possible option, I’m assuming you have a certain appetite for destruction. The daily WOD is usually painful, but something about being able to crank out 75 pull-ups is fun!

Hard.  There is no sense in working out if it isn’t hard.  No matter what your fitness level is, it should be hard for you to complete the exercise.  There should be a point where you have to quiet the voices that tell you it’s OK to go easy or stop.  If you don’t hear those voices, you’re not trying hard enough.

Good Coaches.  If you google Crossfit to read opinions and reviews, you won’t have to go far before someone mentions coaching as a potential weakness or concern.  This is completely understandable as many of the movements are new for a lot of members.  It’s extremely important that your form and function are constantly being monitored and corrected.  The main reason I buy into the coaches at my local box is their consistency.  No matter who is coaching, I hear the same explanations, corrections, and standards.

Strong.  Start with squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups.  Add a dash of running, rowing, and jumping. Finish with high intensity.  This is a recipe for strong.  I’m running farther and stronger than ever before on half the training miles.

Pain Tolerance. I’m big on this right now.  I’m convinced that training your mind to get comfortable with being uncomfortable is the key to unlocking ultra distance potential (more on this later).

Results. I can’t lift the most weight, run the fastest, or do the most pull-ups, but I’m getting better, fast.  It took me about a month to get over the constant muscle fatigue, but now it’s all good pain.  I’ve added 5 pounds of muscle and have had consistent gains in all exercises.

Community. One of my favorite parts of Crossfit is that the workouts are done on the hour.  You don’t just come in when you want and move some weights around.  Class is at a set time and you usually see the same 5-10 people.  Even though there are some ridiculous athletes in there, I haven’t met any meat-heads or obnoxious strongmen.  Everyone is friendly and willing to offer advice or a little encouragement. I think there’s a sense of camaraderie that comes from suffering through a workout together.

Are you a CrossFitter?  Did I miss something?