Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Works For Me

Yesterday afternoon as I headed out the door for my easy 9 mile run, my husband said "why do you have to run so many miles? If you want to get faster, why don't you run lower mileage at higher intensities?"

I'm not really sure what made him question my methods, but he has a valid point. Maybe that was his nice way of saying spend time with me not your running shoes, or maybe he is just sick of sacrificing weekend mornings to get up early and be my cheer squad and paparazzi. Either way his question prompted a lot of thoughts in my mind.


Why do I run such high mileage? While all human bodies have the same bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, organs, etc., they all react and respond to stress differently. Overall my particular body responds positively to exercise stimuli. There are days when I am achy or tired, and sometimes I even have days where I feel unusually sore but when I feel these sensations I make adjustments to my training. I started running at the age of 12 and have spent the past 15 years getting to know what works for MY body. It wasn't always easy for me to run 60+ miles a week and ward off injury, this was something that I had built up over time. For ME to achieve MY goals, MY body needs higher mileage.

Why not just run 45-50 miles per week at higher intensities? Some people thrive off of numerous high intensity workouts, I am sadly not one of these people. In my running experiences I have learned that in order to get the full benefit of the hard workouts, the easy ones need to be really really really easy. The muscles and systems of the body need time to strengthen and heal after high intensity sessions, so piling one on top of the other will not produce much benefit. Instead this will burn out energy stores quicker, and may even lead to injury. The point of tempo runs, repeats, fartleks, etc. is not to simulate race conditions, these workouts are not meant to be an all out race effort. Instead what they should provide is stress on the body that will allow the "quick-twitch" muscles that are not necessarily active during slower runs to active and strengthen. These workouts should feel like they are a higher intensity but should not leave the runner at the end of the workout feeling like they have nothing left in them.

Every runner is different. We all have different goals and motives that put us out on the pavement. My goals are to chase a few PR's this year and to step outside of my racing comfort zone all while enjoying myself before the hubby and I set off to expand our family in the next year or so. I do not base my training on what others are doing and I have become an expert in reading the signals that my own body is telling me, and I encourage other runners to do the same. Yes I could run less mileage and maybe the intensities of my speed workouts could be higher, but my goal is to make it to my starting lines healthy, strong, confident, and ready to kick my own ass.

That being said my advice to every runner would be:

Find out what works best for you. This can be time consuming and take some trial and error.

Listen to what your body is telling you. If your muscles are achy, you are feeling tired, and it is difficult for you to make it through your run this is a red flag that you may need some time off or to cut back your mileage.

Don't compare yourself to other runners. We all have predisposed biological limits that we have no control over and cannot all race like Usain Bolt, Meb, or Deena Kastor. Yes this sucks, but I like to tell myself that running is fun because there will always be people faster to chase down and people slower who want to chase me down.

Fuel your body like you are an elite athlete. Vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are what our cells need to repair themselves after a workout. You only have one body, treasure it and spoil it in nutrient goodness.

Have fun and set your own goals. Enough said.

24 comments:

  1. I'm fairly new to running (well, running consistently at least) and I've definitely learned some things about how my body handles running and stress during the past few months. The thing that has surprised me the most is that my long runs tend to be the easiest because the longer I run, the more my legs relax and I'm able to get in the zone.
    This time last year, if someone had told me that I would enjoy 6-8 mile runs more than 3 milers, I would have told them they were crazy for thinking that I'd even run as much as 3 miles! LOL

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  2. Great post!! I can't imagine doing the mileage you do -- yet, but I think once you condition yourself it becomes 2nd nature. I do prefer long runs to short runs though. I'd rather go a moderate speed then really really push myself (unless I'm racing).

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  3. awesome tips! i'm still trying to figure out my body's patterns. i think it's great that you can get in so many miles each week.

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  4. I think you are so awesome!! Haha, I sound like such a nerd... But I just love your drive and that u stick to the workouts that make u feel good!

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  5. Great advice! I often read what other runners do to train and think "hmm...maybe I should do that?" when really I need to listen to MY body and do what I know works best for me. Thanks for this post!
    :)

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  6. Gosh, you are such a great writer. Such talent. And you nail it every time girl! This deserves a shout out! I must share you with all of my friends. ;)

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  7. Great post. Exactly what I needed. Thanks, Amanda, for the heads-up.

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  8. Yay, happy to see some traffic has come your way! :)

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  9. I headed on over from Amanda's neck of bloggerland. Awesome blog! I grew up north of Chicago, and Chicago was my first marathon - please please eat some Lou Malnati's for me! I drool at the thought of their pizza...

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  10. Great post!
    I'm new to running having only started running/racing last year. I am finding out what work for me and what doesn't but still have lots and lots to learn.

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  11. just became a follower--over from Amanda's blog! you're speed and weekly milage is WICKED!! thanks for the reminder that we all need to do what works for US! what you said about genetic predispositions really hit home. i am a first generation runner (as in, my parents don't even really like to walk all that much), so i'm workin' with what God gave me ( : looking forward to reading more of your posts!

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  12. Good reminder that we're all different and what works for one won't necessarily work for another. As a fairly new runner (just over one year), I'm still figuring out what works, period! :) Take care!

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  13. Hey Britt,

    You have a lot of good advice here. Thanks for sharing.

    I agree with you that you should listen to your body and run accordingly. However, I have never done really high mileage >60 miles per week.

    It would be interesting to see how you feel

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  14. Couldn't help but notice your great tempo run! Wowza!

    I do better with high mileage so far too :)

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  15. Coming over from Amanda!! Great post! So many good points!

    Higher mileage brings me to the starting line with more confidence. Perhaps I could accomplish as much on less but at this point it's working out for me for the most part.

    NICE tempo-wow!! Great pace. I'm following now:)

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  16. This is a great post!

    I just noticed that your 1/2 PR is the Oak Brook Half. I'm running that one this year! Maybe we can get together for a bloggy photo beforehand. After that, I'll be too far behind, doing what works for me. :)

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  17. Great post! (thanks Amanda for sharing)

    The last couple of years, I've been increasing my mileage to test the waters. So far it's working for me. In a few years, I will do more of the Less is More type of training, but for now, while I can, I want to explore the limits.

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  18. Hi mileage is the way to go for me. Its lead to slower 5k times but faster marathon and ultra marathon times.
    That said i think it depends on the person

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  19. WOW!!! I absolutely LOVE your blog. You are SO right and it definitely does depend on what is best for the person. I am like you and my body works better with high mileage. When I added in speed work and too many Fartleks I got a stress fracture. Love this post and you are an amazing writer!

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  20. It's amazing how many times this week I have heard "listen to your body". I don t have e ouh experience yet to know what works best for me. But I am hopeful that over time by listening to myself and learning from such insightful women like you I will better understand my body. Thanks Britt ! Xx

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  21. I often feel like miles 7 and 8 are the best miles of my longer runs. I'd like to do more 8 milers just so I can get to those happy mile - it can just be hard to make that happen mid-week for me.

    I came over from Runninghood yesterday and have been perusing your archives. You are an inspiration!

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  22. awesome post! thanks for sharing!

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  23. Awesome post and great advice, thanks for sharing. I have a feeling my husband is probably thinking the same as yours: "why so many early morning runs and races?! I just want to sleep in" :)

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  24. This is a great post! I somehow saw this post and thought it was awesome (before seeing Amanda's post on it about it) - weird that I stumbled upon it right before you did a shoutout to you, haha

    Seems like we have the same story, both started running in 7th grade - seems like you have been more consistent about it though than I have over the years, haha

    Anyways, I'm also running Chicago Marathon this year for the first time - I'm injured right now but hopefully I'll be able to get back to training soon.

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