Part 2: Adaptation

According to the Road Runners Clubs of America and legendary running coach, Jack Daniels, superb training and racing success is built upon this idea: the body adapts to stress. Time spent running is the stimulus for your body to make 3 major cellular adaptations which improve running efficiency and performance:

  1. Muscular cells modify as the number, size, and distribution of mitochondria (tiny powerhouses responsible for converting stored energy into usable energy) increase. More running = more mitochondria produced = more energy supplied to running muscles!
  2. More capillaries become active, distributing more blood. More blood means more oxygen delivered to muscles, enabling them to fire more efficiently.
  3. An increase in certain enzymes means delivered oxygen can be processed by those muscles at an improved, faster rate.

Is it cliche to say that running changes you? Maybe. But biochemically speaking, it does. Running, over time, changes you right down to the cellular level. The more miles you put in, the greater the chances your heart, lungs, and skeletal muscles (i.e. legs) will start to function more efficiently, making you…a better runner. These changes can ONLY occur in the aerobic zone, which is about 1½ – 2 minutes SLOWER than your current (yes, CURRENT- not “best” or “before I had kids” or “when I’m not injured”) 5K race pace. This is the magical, albeit sometimes elusive “conversation pace,” achieved when you are easily able to carry on a conversation while running.  But don’t confuse “‘feeling good” with “easy.” Conversation pace involves no huffing or puffing. It is slower than almost every runner I chat with feels like they SHOULD be going, but it’s important to find it! CP will enhance overall training duration and eventually have a positive impact on your racing speed. Trust the science.

What does this mean for YOU? Essentially…slow the heck down. For the vast majority of us, MOST of our miles should be easy. Slower running is the best way to allow the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to adapt to the stress training puts on them and recover in an appropriate amount of time to continue stressing them. Remember that time spent running is a key component to this deal- by slowing down, you are significantly decreasing your chances of injury, allowing you to stay on your feet longer. Easy miles means more miles! This is especially important during the “off season,” the time before your 12,16, 20, etc. week race-specific training plans begin. Building a good, strong aerobic base before a true training regimen begins makes setting and achieving higher level goals easier to attain. You can double down on these effects by heading up to the mountains and really amp up your red blood cell count, but if travel isn’t already in your plans, altitude training is best left to the pros. 

Of course, there is a time and place for going fast and running hard. A good coach can tell you when, how long, how often, and how fast your hard sessions should be based on your training, performance and ultimate goal. If you’re looking for a running coach to help you navigate the ins and outs of this whole running thing, you’ve come to the right place. Head over to my Contact page and shoot me a line! Stay tuned for the 3rd and last installment of why you need to run slower to run faster!

Sunday Runday: The Church of the Sunday Long Run

It’s Sunday. Have you logged your miles yet?!?

Screenshot_20171126-124201Georgie and I running today along the marina

Your 2017 NYC Marathon Champion, Shalane Flanagan sometimes mentions attending the Church of the Sunday Long Run. Other pro runners, like Nick Symmonds, and myriads of Average Joes and Jills post pictures of themselves running miles in meditation, honoring the same practice (b/c if you don’t post about it, it never happened, right?!). Blogs have been written on the topic with taglines such as “conversational etiquette” during said exercise, t-shirts have references to it splayed across their fronts. The “Church” has its own hashtag on social media, its own Facebook page, its own Twitter account (go ahead, check it- I’ll be waiting right here). It’s on the internet- that means it’s real (right?!?!). Please don’t mistake this for heresy. Real Church is still a thing- and an important one to many of us. It’s just that runners can easily compare the experience of a good long run with attending a worship service, regardless of what day it actually falls on (I typically run long on Saturdays, for instance, and try to get to church on Sundays). Running gear company, Tracksmith, has the following to say about the Church of the Sunday Long Run:

“The Sunday long run is often conflated with spirituality. It’s an easy comparison: like church, the long run is a Sunday ritual. And like any religion, it encourages us to reflect on our shortcomings and appreciate what we have. The fact that it’s the one run of the week where we push for distance, not speed, only encourages that – done correctly, it’s an introspective, centering experience. We don’t all share the same religion, but as runners, we’re all parishioners at the Church of the Long Run.” (http://churchofthelongrun.tracksmith.com/)

Whichever faith you practice, it feels good to know there are other people- near and far- believing in the same ideas and values you do. As humans, we have a basic, instinctual need for belonging to a group and practicing religion can offer us that security. The running community- whether in your own neighborhood or worldwide- offers the same sense of “family” and the Church of the Sunday Long Run is one way of showing solidarity and feeling connected. Despite the intensity of your training plan, the length of your goal race, your years of experience, level of achievement, age, gender, or your ACTUAL religion, the weekend ritual of slowing down for a nice, long run and having a chance to think, reflect, and appreciate brings us all together. So whether you’re a seasoned vet or lacing up for the very first time today, welcome. As we enter this Christmas season, may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be at your back, and may all your miles be merry from here on out. Amen.