So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Accountability Measures

I was ranting about "resolutionists" in the last post; not so much how much I don't particularly care for them as much as the challenge in helping them turn a two-month habit into a lifetime one.  Entry-level exercisers have the potential to become entry-level runners, a form of vocational security for this running coach.

When it comes to a (scheduled) Sunday morning run if the weather is crummy and/or it's only the missus and myself out waiting for the rest of the group I'm always willing to pull the plug; hey, I have a treadmill at the house, if no one in the group feels accountable to one another then why should I panic?  However, get at least one other person out who's near my ability level I'm going to plug away at the planned run; and if it's someone who's slower I still (kinda) don't mind, and most likely enjoy it once it's over.  Several trainers and coaches have written about the benefits of a threesome when it comes to workouts.  A small group of at least three persons is unlikely to leave an individual without a training partner; you might occasionally lose one but rarely will you lose two.

This group accountability for the resolutionist can be virtual - I keep in regular contact with a group which originally started out as a letters and opinions forum, moved to an e-mail list, and finally grouped together on social media.  We post race results, daily workouts, joys and challenges, and such.  There's nothing like being positively-referenced in a friend's status post; and I've lost track of the times when I've seen a post which reminded me to get up off my lazy behind and do the right thing.  If the group is physical and local, it needs to be to the point of near-intimacy; the type of group where almost nothing is off-limits and anything can be brought up as an item of concern.

This may sound kinky, so bear with me.

There's nothing like feedback of multiple forms.  Weigh, measure and photograph each other - or yourself - in as little clothing as possible, on a weekly basis.  Track the weight and measurements, keep the photos in your phone or computer as motivation to press on - you'll need it on both the good and on the bad days.  This is important:  If you can't feel comfortable in as little clothing as possible, with what might be an excess of an excess of body it will almost be gymnophobic to step into a gym where there are a great number of really buff guys and gals, some average folks, and a few sweatsuit-wearing folks struggling to transform.  You're going to be in public.   Yes, people are watching each other.  And yes, people are watching themselves.  Most are paying more attention to themselves than they are you.  Just go in there and bust your chops; if your effort level shows you're working out you'll fit right in.  If you're on a cardio machine pedaling along at a pace which is slower than you would walk, you will stand out.

The workout sessions ought to be difficult enough, and varied enough.  The "exercise thing" can go from hard work to the group ambling along on the treadmill at two miles per hour for twenty minutes three times a week in nothing flat if you're not careful.  Sure, twenty minutes three times a week is what the CDC recommended, but that's the absolute floor.  To get more fit there needs to be more done.  Make a real investment in the fitness by signing on with a gym where there are group exercise classes or fitness trainers on staff.  And use them.

Just yourself - or no trainers?  For cardio machines a decent heart rate monitor might be overkill, but there are some exercises which don't have a way to read a heart rate.  Want to know what's the maximum heart rate for you?  Get in touch with your doctor and ask for a stress test - actually it's a great idea before starting a workout program.  Don't want to deal with doctors but want to know what your max heart rate is most likely?

If you're a man, take your age, multiply times 0.7, then subtract that number from 208.  A fifty-year old guy most likely has a maximum heart rate of 173.

Women will take their age, multiply times 0.88, subtract from 206.  So a fifty-year old woman would subtract 44 from 206 to get 162 as her max.

If you don't like heart rate monitors and all that battery-operated, chest-strapped (now there's forearm straps and Bluetooth for the anti-chest strap crowd) stuff then you can use what's called the ratio of perceived effort.  Researchers found experienced exercisers could "ballpark" their percentage maximum heart rate to within a few beats, based on a ten-point exertion scale.  A "five" was an effort which could be maintained for an hour of few - fifty percent; a "ten" was the 'oh, heavens, my chest will explode in five seconds if I keep this up' - about one-hundred percent.  Sixty-to-seventy percent max heart rate, or a six-to-seven on the perceived effort scale, is what you're going too want to do for AT LEAST thirty minutes a day, three times a week.  And if you can get another two days in of thirty to forty minutes with an effort level of fifty percent/"five" effort, so much the better.

Finally, consistency is going to be key.  Schedule the workout in to the plan of the week immediately after the things which keep the roof over the head, the car on the road and the food in the fridge.  The German philosopher Nietzche said that "a day has a thousand pockets."  Time management is the ultimate goal of any resolution; we need to be the master over our life, not the other way around.  If you're resolving to change exercise, fitness or diet in the coming year know that the main battle will be between you and the watch, the planner and the calendar.  You can do it.

Mars, Venus and the Gymnasium

The last weekend runs of the year are times for observation, reflection and the mental penciling-in of training targets for the new year.  My first draft took place about six months ago.

I'm a coach.  I want to set the example.

Pete, this week's run companion, hasn't finalized his plan in macro.  He knows he wants to do a few half-marathon distance races; he'll most likely spend a lot of his weekends doing the same thing most other local runners do here:  Hop from weekend 5K to weekend 5K.  I guess that's not a bad way to be when your goal is to stay active in your later-fifties.

It didn't surprise him too much to hear I have three target races this year (a 5K, a 10K and a half-marathon), especially when I still am "on-the-mend" after years of ignoring overuse injuries.  What surprised him was to learn eighty percent of my training mileage is indoors on a treadmill, especially the higher intensity work.  Once my strength work and cross-training is factored in eighty percent of my training volume (when measured in intensity) comes from treadmill running.

When the infinitesimal variances between treadmill running and road running are removed I believe it's the most time-efficient way to train.  How can a guy go wrong with pace discipline regardless of the individual workout's intensity level?  And if things go wrong and the first nagging injuries begin to rise up there's always the "STOP" button.  I have a treadmill at home, plus access to the machines at the local gym where I do my cross-training and strength training.

The iron-pumpers at "Fit-O-Rama" have become quite used to the sweaty guy blowing up their cardio machines.  I've run into a couple as they're flying to shows and we're going to races.  It's a mutual admiration society of a sort.  My gym is in an expansion project, just in time to accommodate the yearly (temporary) population explosion.  The first two months of the new year finds nearly every fitness center filled with folks I've come to describe as "resolutionists."  These folks (suddenly) wake up on January first and resolve to get fit.  I could go into the philosophical ramifications of such a statement (refer to S.M.A.R.T. goal-making), or even the folly of setting themselves up for abject failure on or before March first.  While I've never asked health club managers or sales persons, I'm certain they cringe as folks come through the door the day after New Years', fill out their yearly contract and are almost always never seen again.

A couple of years back my wife (former fitness studio manager) and I talked about what a forward-thinking fitness studio owner could do to truly enhance the health and wellness of their newest customer.  When it comes to guys it seems to be no big problem; throw them on the weight and cardio machines for two weeks and they're certain to see a slight change.  Some will be stoked at the outcome and stay at it.  Others might become disappointed.

Women, on the other hand, are a longer-term project.  Few realize that it will take at least six months of consistent workouts to show anything beyond the most rudimentary cardiovascular fitness.  Fewer women still are pragmatic enough to realize that they did not arrive at the state of fitness they are presently at over the course of six, nine or twelve months.  So what can a chick do to make the best of the first - difficult - months of a training routine?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ebenezer? Ebenezer?

So, how many holiday party invitations have you, er, declined this season?

How much has your training mileage declined since Thanksgiving?

Worst of all, have you caught your 'holiday season bug?'

My loving bride decided this morning to walk to her job, a distance which is a skosh over five kilometers from our house.  I offered to drive her over on my way to the office; the dark, drippy and gloomy conditions topped with semi-attentive shoppers didn't make me feel good.

"I haven't done ANY exercise at all over the past two weeks," was her adamant response.

Under normal circumstances I would most likely mock and scoff.  However, this has truly been a one-off year for the both of us.  A year rivaling that of the 2014 Saints.  Queen Elizabeth's 1992 is a better parallel, perhaps.

Her Majesty (a pretty nice girl, but she doesn't have a lot to say...) called it an 'annus horribilis.'
I consider running and aerobic activity to be a touchstone in a world gone horribly insane.  My family knows this.  With very few exceptions - work being the largest subset - my friends are runners, athletes, exercise and fitness enthusiasts or coaches.

So during those days "when darkness falls early," as Don Henley once sang, not much changes for me.  I might take a day off here and there, or adjust the workout duration by a few minutes to make time for the grandkids (and their parental units), but when it comes to placing a social function over training, Nancy Reagan was right.

"Just Say No."

There's nothing wrong with taking a day here and there, however, when the friends (who are less devoted to your running and fitness than you are) start laying on the guilt trip...well, the pathway to the nether regions are paved by one-too-many indulgences granted.  Show up late ("socially tardy") if you must, but don't surrender.  Here's a couple of good reasons...

First, a calorie burned is a calorie that will NOT be stored as fat.  There's nothing wrong with having that egg-nog, pumpkin pie, turkey and dressing.  Unless you're a complete kill-joy an increased intake in calories is a given.  But don't hit yourself with a double-whammy of "less burned" and "more taken in."

Not unless you want to have that dress waistline taken out.

Second, stretchy pants are over-rated.  It's always easier to keep weight off than to take it off.  Talking to myself here.  After the last couple of years I'm starting to return back to the (slightly-slower) guy I used to be.  It's nice to be able to walk with a minimal limp (car accident from very long ago) rather than a gait which made me look like someone ten (twenty!) years my senior.  Enough said.

Third, the more time you spend out on the roads and trails in the fresh (albeit cold) air means there's less time spent around folks who've been making the social rounds; really it's a bit of an odds and probability thing - they're eating junk food and running themselves ragged at the mall (with a bunch of potentially sick people who feel compelled to shop with the sniffles) before they show up to the same party you're at.  It's crazy sounding, but I think you get what I'm trying to say...

"Chin rule" notwithstanding, dealing with the common cold, or worse yet, the flu, is not conducive to good training.

I'm not recommending hermit-like behavior, or sociophobia - not unless you're already sociophobic, or socially-inept.  There's a fine line between "necessary detraining" and mental recovery and actions which can, over the course of a month, undo years of good training.

In Memory of Ernest Lombard (17 Jan 1939-12 Dec 2014) Spouse, Father, Veteran, Preacher, Friend

Friday, December 5, 2014

...And All I Got Was This Lousy Case Of Granola Bars, A T-Shirt And A P.R...

I truly did not want this topic to "downhill" into a self-righteous diatribe, but I fear it's going to go that particular direction.

For me, holiday races are time to get together with friends, run a few miles, drink a few beverages and remind myself how good it is to be part of a larger running "family."  But if you haven't read the article about what happened during Thanksgiving in Cincinnati, some of our "distant cousins" are in need of a little visit behind the woodshed.

I'm not opposed to a little shenanigans after a race; I've drank my entry fee worth of "free beer" on more than one occasion.  When Suzanne and I put on a small event last year there was this "issue" of one keg which, if not put to its intended use (Insert Ben Franklin's 'desire to make people happy' dictum here.) was going to be really heavy lifting back to the truck.  As the adage goes, 'many hands make light work;' the keg was easily hoisted into the truck bed...about two hours later.

However, there's a vast difference between R.D.-encouraged, er, hospitality gratefully accepted by race participants, and behavior which more likely would have been observed at a major retailer later that evening or the day after.

Stealing food?  Cursing at (youthful) volunteers?  Engaging in borderline battery on the race director? Is this the point to we, the running community, have regressed?

Race directors are a reactive lot.  There's only so much proactive risk mitigation that can be done; more often than not changes come from the 'what worked, and what did not' hindsight.  Not always perfect, sometimes selectively magnified.  In this R.D.'s case, this was not her first rodeo; leftover food items from past editions of the race (11 under her direction) were donated to food banks.

Emergency management folks and sociologists would most likely define the looting which happened at this particular race as that of civil disorder; a response to perceived injustice.

I can hear the question, 'what injustice?'

As racing progressed from a club activity to a business enterprise and the exponential increase in the number of events directors have had to think about value addition.  First it was overall awards for veteran athletes, then it was age group awards.  Then there was the food and drink to keep the participants happy while scoring was completed.  Expand beyond a certain point and it's not reasonable to provide buffets and endless beverage service. At that point in the game comes stratification; some will pay for value-added, others will continue to pay eighty bucks for two skinny beers, a granola bar and a bottle of chocolate milk.  Having put on an event I know the lion's share of money goes into ensuring the infrastructure exists; safety, permits, insurance and the like, stuff the race participant only notes by its absence.

Then came the "participation events," with courses which might be accurate, might have shirts, might have food and beverage, might be more expensive than your local club race, and might give a little bit of the proceeds to a charity.  Don't forget the frauds and hucksters, either.  They exist.  Google Reinke Sports Group, but make certain your fire extinguisher is handy first.

So the race consumer feels like they entitled to more for their dollar.  And they are.

But when the running family decides to foul its own nest by letting it's members steal from an event, the event promoters who were doing the right thing in the first place will get out of the business.  All that will be left are the color runs, the half-marathons which suddenly cancel, and the 2.8-mile 5K races.

Public exposure sounds like a great start, both for events and athletes who steal from each other. Event photos, as well as casual shots, could be used by R.D.s to seek out and sanction individuals or their family members (who often collude or assist in such shenanigans).

We really need to start teaching our running "friends and family" that it's acceptable to police our own.  Neither impunity nor immunity should be granted; we will be the ones who foot the (larger) event bill and suffer decreased event quality...if one even occurs.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Oh Dear, Santa!

I don't particularly care for the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years' Day.

As an athletically-inclined person, there are too many stressors which have little other rationale than to detrain us. If it's not social functions which we feel compelled to attend, it's "mandatory" time with people we would much rather avoid, less-than-healthy foodstuffs and alcohol, and so on.

And that's talking strictly about the workplace.

Add the demands of those extended family members who don't understand our compulsion to run...or work out...nearly every day, traffic patterns (and motor vehicle operators) thicken exponentially as we approach even the smallest of shopping centers.

That's it. Enough.

Suzanne is terribly smart about the "shopping thing." She begins her end-of-year holiday shopping not long after the beginning of the year; if she sees something which a friend or loved one might like she'll buy it, storing it in her "chick cave." (Yes, there are such things. She also calls it her office space, but really it's the feminine version of my "man cave.")

Giving gifts? Sure. I like to make it something meaningful, like a good book. If I know a friend has a particular passion, I'll try to focus toward it. My close friends and family know I'm all about things endurance-related or kinda-sorta (un-)healthy; gift cards for the local coffee/bakery, or a case of really good beer is something more close to my heart. Otherwise, athletic socks and clothing items will do.

A guy can only get so many pairs of running socks or coffee mugs before things tend to lose their "significance." If I were to write a "Dear Santa" letter the wish list would most likely be limited.

Here's a couple of items - definitely higher in price - which most running enthusiasts might find special:

Be fortunate enough to run faster than your peers and contemporaries every so often, or do enough long distance events, and you're likely to have a lot of award or finisher medallions.  My good friend Dennis Funchess has three or four small boxes mounted on his dining room wall, velvet-lined, dark wood, with possibly half-a-dozen finisher medals mounted on them.  While many participant awards now have ribbons which rival their hanging, it's the bling that appears to be the thing.  The high-end wood-framed boxes of a size which would hold a decades' worth of serious event participation start in the triple-digit range, but the surreptitious snagging of a dozen medals, followed by a visit to your local crafting store and a few hours of wiring and hot-gluing would make for a meaningful giftie. What better gift than to take all that nylon and pot metal off the hangers in the hallway and put them on that runner's "I Love Me" wall?

Another item which runners collect faster than the average human being are event t-shirts.  Whether the person participates or supports the event the chances are very strong they have a shirt from the experience.  And if you or your friends ever get into the world of race directing you will never lack for shirts.  If you're like I am the chances are slim you're EVER going to wear a "Jingle Bell," "Firecracker," or "Turkey Trot" event shirt.  However, there's nothing that says you can't take those well-designed shirts and with a little love (and some time, and a few bucks to someone who knows what they're doing...) have a colorful throw blanket or comforter for around the house...or to hang up on the garage wall.    Starting price for a small lap blanket can be as little 60 dollars, and skyrocket from there up into the hundreds for a queen-sized job.

What says "I know you love your running" like a training camp?  Running enthusiasts love nothing better than to tie a long weekend or a week away from it all to a place where they don't have to do much that doesn't resemble their favorite activity.  A running vacation weekend at a camp in the Great Smokies will run about a hundred bucks a day.  Or you can choose a running-friendly place and do your own thing.  Suzanne and I tried this about two years ago in Key West, and we had a fantastic time; we ran in the morning, bicycled during the day, and walked in the evening.

And if your special runner is truly self-coached but could use a little direction, perhaps some fitness testing at the local college exercise physiology lab, a six-month training consultation with a running or fitness coach, or something as comfortable as three months' worth of sports massages?

I'm not necessarily saying that gift giving needs an "outside of the box" approach, but there are some ideas which, given a little planning and subterfuge, can mean so much to your running friend.

Let's not see each other at the mall, okay?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Over The River, Through The Woods

Hey...we have a "short" week this week.  Unless you're in the service industry the odds are quite good you're going to have a few extra days away from the office or place where you do your business. Does this mean "road trip?"  A little extra time around the table (or the bar) with family and friends? CTS founder Chris Carmichael always seems to have a little something insightful for his athletes and those time-crunched people who want to - in spite of the unreality of such statements - do more with less.  I'll take his guidance as a starting point for my own recommendations for - depending on your perspective - a three-day week or a four-day weekend:

Watch your work:
I've always been of the opinion that quality mileage is better than junk miles.  If you normally would do an hour of running a day at an average perceived effort level of say, six out of ten, and you’re going to be constrained by social functions, children home from school, shopping, and so on, adjust you intensity level.  Shorter efforts?  Fine, work a little harder.  If your typical workout includes a long, leisurely warm-up or cool-down then shorten the easy stuff and keep "the meat."  Something is better than nothing as long as that something is good stuff.

Stay hydrated as you travel:
Whether it’s airline travel or a long road trip, you’ll feel a lot better when you arrive at your destination – and the following day – if you focus on consuming plenty of water as you travel.  Enjoy the "spirits" of the season in moderation, and preferably not at all if you're the driver.

Thanksgiving Day is a holiday; it's not a "day off":
If you're in a place, or going to a place where there's a "Turkey Trot" or holiday race, or you know of a group of runners going out in the morning, get out and run.  Even a less-than-stellar race situation will make that turkey and stuffing less guilt-laden.  Our little training group used to meet up for an easy one-hour run back in the day; now it's a chance for me to boogie down the road with the missus and a few buddies and race a little 5K.  It's a certified course (I measured) so I can tell my training progress and adjust my paces accordingly.  Even a local trot early in the morning will be great, as most roads will be empty until about midday.

Control your portions:
Holiday meals are made with love and meant to be enjoyed without being overly concerned with nutrition. You have 364 other days to focus on nutrition. But you can do yourself a favor by eating a little bit of everything rather than gorging yourself.  And if you ran good and hard earlier in the day...remember that guilt thing?

Take Black Friday OFF!
People go crazy the day after Thanksgiving. If they behave that way in stores, just imagine how impatient and distracted they are on the road. If you’re going to ride or run, go on routes which are not near major thoroughfares, and definitely NOT near the mall.

If you've been at this long enough odds are great your family will easily accept your need to be thankful for the ability to run just as much as your gratitude for the blessings of family and friends.  Enjoy it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Marathon On 30K? No Way.

Ever read an article which makes you want to respond with, "well, duh...?"

I had one of those land in my e-mail late last week. Mind you, the article wasn't poorly-written or supported by sketchy claims, and there wasn't any sort of marketing thrust tied into it. It seems that researchers have learned that low-mileage training plans just might increase the chance of a running-related injury.

You can repeat along with me, if you like. Well, duh...

Inquiring minds like mine are always overjoyed when an article of this kind links to the original research. After reading one-too-many pieces written for national-level newspapers and magazines I've learned it's best to look at the original research studies. Sometimes there's more interesting "findings" which the magazine or newspaper writer conveniently decided to overlook.

I'll drop my stone right now, since I'm standing in the front yard of my own "glass house."

Rasmussen, et. al, (Rasmussen, C.H., Nielsen, R.O., Juul, M.S., Rasmussen, S. (Apr. 2013) Weekly Running Volume and Risk of Running‐Related Injuries Among Marathon Runners. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, Vol.8, Iss.2, p111-120, April.) surveyed participants of the Hans Christian Andersen Marathon in an effort to determine whether there was a correlation between self-reported weekly training distance and the self-reported incidence of a running-related injury during or before the event.

What the Danish researchers found was that a weekly training volume of less than 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) increased the chance of injury by 134% when compared to weekly training volumes between 30 and 60 kilometers (18-36 miles). Going beyond 60 kilometers per week saw no change in risk when compared to the 30-60km group. Less-experienced (or younger) runners showed a greater chance of injury; more-experienced runners and runners who were not participating in their first marathon also showed less chance of injury.

It's a given that running more not only encourages adaptations which make runners stronger and less-susceptible to injury, but also better at...well, running. The law of specificity tells us so. We can become strong by lifting weights and doing resistance training, we can enhance (or at least maintain) cardiovascular fitness by performing aerobic activities at a high level, but there are very few fitness activities which provide some semblance of crossover.

Low-mileage training might be good for the person who desires to dabble about with running, or the person who is extremely time-constrained. That's not saying that if a runner only has enough time to run 30 miles a week that they should not participate in long(er)-distance races, just that they might not find them as enjoyable as they might those distances which are shorter.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Good Idea Fairy

I get more than my fair share of e-mail - most likely you, too, if you've been running long enough - from well-intentioned vendors who want to provide us the next level of additional value to our running.  Some are really good; others are the offspring of the creature my day job likes to call the "good idea fairy."

I had heard of this particular beast intermittently during my first few years after college, but at this (late) point in my career there are an increase of coworkers who have been - as it is euphemistically described - downrange.  Thus a sudden increase of sightings; it's like you don't realize it's there until someone else tells you it is...then you tend to notice it everywhere, that 'evil mythical creature that whispers advice and ideas into the ears ... causing ... unnecessary changes and countless wasted man-hours ....

My latest "good idea fairy" sighting found it disguised, or cloaked if you prefer, in the seemingly common-sense running after dark guidance which every runner should consider, now that we've left what is known as Daylight Savings Time (DST).  Perhaps even the concept of DST was inspired by some "good idea fairy" somewhere.  For the love of Pre, everyone knows daylight cannot be saved and certainly cannot be withdrawn at a later time as those times when the temperatures are less than infernal and you really feel inspired to get out and run, right?

The guidance included:

1. Let friends know where you are.
Perfectly good sense, in my humble opinion.  While the group who sent these recommendations suggested using their value-added application, a simple on-line mapping program works, too.

2. Know where you're going.
Ties in well to #1, if I don't say so myself.  My missus learned this the hard way a couple of weeks ago, when she decided to jog in a neighborhood I told her was not the best...even during daytime hours.  She called it a morning after a mile or so.

3. If listening to music, leave out one earbud and be aware of your surroundings.
No.  No.  A thousand times no.  Human beings stink at multitasking; one of the great deceptions of our society is that we can do more than one thing well at a time.  It's a zero-sum game at best.  Your mind focuses on dissociation from the discomfort of running AND the potential hazards which surround you, like the slightly uneven surface just waiting to trip you up or worse, the soccer parent who's five minutes behind on their evening commute...and in a hurry.  The only thing worse than two earbuds blasting Taylor Swift into your ear while running in the dark is doing the same with one earbud.  Not only can you not hear someone - a cyclist who's not wearing lights, reflectors or helmet - coming from behind, for example - the second source of outside noise scrambles your perception of what's coming up on the other side.  If you need music on the run, please do your run at a gym or some place where you're on top of a nice, safe treadmill.

4. Carry an ID on you in case of emergency.
A great idea.  Too many words, in my humble opinion; just carry a form of identification.  Cell phones have a tendency to break upon impact, and most folks have theirs password-protected.  There are a lot of companies out there with identification options which are affordable and with varieties which align to the desires of most runners.  Even your drivers' license in a pouch or pocket will work.

5. Run against traffic so you can see oncoming cars.
Very common sense.  In many cases drivers will frustrate and or temporarily blind a runner by punching on their high beams.  Learn to focus your vision on a point which is not directly into the beam of oncoming vehicles.  I used to wear running sunglasses with switchable lenses, putting a yellow or amber lens in to cut the glare.  Good sunglasses are out there, but learn to focus where the lights aren't.

6. Make yourself visible with bright-colored or reflective clothing.  Light the way with blinking lights or headlamps.
Both good.  This is not the time to reprise the classic Monty Python "How Not To Be Seen" skit. Sure, there are drivers who don't like runners on the roadway, but I'd put good money on the fact they're the same folks who hated you during daylight, during the summer and on race day.  You can go inexpensive by purchasing a simple reflective (or lighted) vest to wear over anything, or purchase clothing items which have reflectors.  Clip-on lights are cheap, easily-replaced and easily spotted.

7. Buddy up and find groups or a friend to join you.
In many cases, depending on the location, there is safety in numbers.  Just make certain that whoever you join up with follows all of the precautions, also.  I recall an experience several years ago where a weeknight run group allowed two new participants to go out on their downtown course without reflective gear or lights, and with headphones.  They were struck by a motor vehicle at a poorly-lit intersection just half a mile from the run terminus.

8. Watch for pedestrian walkways and stay on the sidewalk or close to the curb.
Refer to #5.  And pay attention at intersections, because in most cases the motor vehicle operator isn't.

9. Avoid rush hour or times when heavy traffic could be difficult to navigate.
Uh huh.  And in many cases rush hour is very close to sundown/dusk, the most common time for vehicular accidents.  Human eyesight is adjusting to the change in lighting, from very bright (to the point of right in your eyes) to quickly darkening.  They're in a hurry to get the two-point-five off to soccer, swimming, and such.  Their mind is not on your safety...and sometimes they're adding on a little more hindrance by texting, phoning and reading stuff off their devices on the way.  Remember how I mentioned that humans suck at multitasking?  Add your multitasking to theirs and someone's gonna get hurt...and they've got a couple of thousand pounds weight advantage and a foot-pound force advantage at 35 miles per hour which is nearly three times the amount of force needed to break a human bone.

So, please, don't let someone else's "good idea fairy" meet up with yours.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Computer, Experience, Some Calculations...A Load of Compassion

The casual observer would think the last weeks leading into a target race is easy for a coach.  Not really.  There's only a small amount of physical preparation leading in - more often than not it's ensuring not too much is done.  But the mental work - the calming of fears and genteel reminders to stay as close as possible to the happy place during the days before the race - still goes on.  And of course there's race day, a time where I've spent the past couple of years at our local marathon at an unofficial, er, "Colorado Kool-Aid" station around the sixteenth mile of the course.

For me, it's a little tomfoolery and giving back to the individual runners outside of my other roles as coach, course measurer, chronicler of things-going-on, creator of curriculum...and curmudgeon. Runners who have lived slightly over two decades who slow up at my place on the course, about a tenth of a mile before a genuine event-sponsored aid station, can get a little bit of Colorado Kool-Aid. It's a small amount of post-race refreshment, which comes about ten miles sooner than the first-time event participant expects.  Returnees have greeted me with, "oh, it's YOU again..."

Right before they take the small offering of Rocky Mountain (or Milwaukee, or St. Louis) goodness. Or they continue on to the official aid station and take their spring water (or whatever swill is being offered) there.

But I digress.

I've waited at other points for my athletes, watched them come through the finish, but I prefer to stay at arms' length or farther and let the time after the finish be for the racer and their family.  Do I want to know the "how well" question?  Absolutely.  But in most cases race day is for the racer alone.  The athlete, should they feel the need to pass along the details, will.  When they feel like it.  When my athletes have run well and had a great day I'm elated and vindicated.  When they have a bad day I want to curl up on the couch and not talk to anybody for a couple of days....which I cannot do because I have training and work and family matters which require my attention.  Just like my athletes.

So I can only imagine what the New York Road Runners' marathon coach, a fellow by the name of John Honerkamp, was feeling like this last weekend.  He works to train about 900 runners in a 20 week program which focuses on the New York City Marathon.  E-mail is his modality, which for me isn't the most perfect, but when your clientele is spread across 80 different countries you do what you must.  Personally, I'd love to see the algorithm he's using; if it personalizes what I've perceived as the over-generalization of distance training plans, then more power to him.

There's a difference between a coach and a seller of workout books.  That difference comes when the athlete needs a guy (or gal) who isn't just pushing workouts, but someone who really gives a damn about the individual athlete's well-being.  Taking the time to listen when an athlete's family member, or the athlete, is sick, injured, or worse...well, that can take a lot out of you. It's something a book or an application will never be able to do.  Running is a social activity.  The ability to interact with each other - peer-to-peer or athlete-to-coach has a value which far exceeds any $25 book or $200 twenty-week cycle.

If you're racing in the near future, I wish you the best of success.

Monday, October 13, 2014

You're Not Cutting Back Everything

Boy, do I love mornings when I "feel" healthy.  By that definition - healthy - I mean "can run up to a half-marathon distance" and function the rest of the day.  Oh, and define functional as "can walk the d-a-w-g around the park without complaint."

It's easier to teach from ground level than from a bike saddle on the run.  Since Labor Day weekend Angela's Sunday runs are - in part or in full - solo, depending on whether the Sunday morning group sleeps in or goes to a race.  Two hours, tops, is what my tendons will tolerate...that means I bicycle along during two-and-a-half hour runs with extra water bottle and cell phone, just in case "stuff" hits the fan.

"You picked a great week to come back, Coach."

So began my rhetorical question time, at mile one, no less.  "Tell me what you already know about tapering."

"That's where you cut back on mileage during the last week or two before the race, up to one-half."

Very well.  She's read the articles that every other runner training for a marathon has.  Curve ball time; see if Angela puts this one into the bleachers...

"What's the ideal run intensity during the taper?"

Have you watched the first "Major League" movie, specifically the scene where the Cuban defector crushes a series of fastballs?  Then the assistant coach tells the batting practice pitcher to throw a few curve balls...therein lies the essence  of comedy.  Whiff.  Whiff.  Whiff.  "Easy-peasy."


My old college coach used to say, "you can run hard, you can run long, but you cannot run both at the same time."  In the final weeks before a target event it's either the intensity or the duration being run that needs to be cut back.  But not both.  The rule of thumb for rest, recovery and the ideal amount of time before to ramp up to full intensity after a race can be used in the opposite direction when approaching the home stretch of training before a race.

So, a target race of marathon distance can merit a taper period of three weeks, give or take.  A runner taking a three-week taper - sixty-mile weeks or more leading in - could trim a quarter of their duration or distance three weeks out, decrease by one-third the second week, and drop down to fifty percent on the last week.

What's important during this time is to maintain the overall intensity.  A runner doing sixty miles a week at a perceived intensity of five on a one-to-ten scale would ideally want to, during a three-week taper, run up to 45 miles the first week at a six.  The second week would be a 40-mile distance at a seven or eight...the first couple of days on the third week would be at a nine.

How many easy days would I recommend during the last week before the target race?  If my training were targeted toward a four-hour finish I would probably cut intensity and duration/distance during the last four days before the race.

"Taper madness" is only maddening for the athlete who fails to prepare.  Everything gets cut back but the dietary thing you know the athlete is five pounds heavier and sluggish, rather than rested, ready and sharp.  Needful things can be prepared during the two to three weeks before a marathon (or week before a half-marathon), such as pacing strategies, quality time with the family members who helped you get to the start.  Definitely not time to go out and hammer the roads into submission.  Take it easy, but don't take it too easy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Professional?

"pro-fes-sion-al:  1  a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession.  b : engaged in one of the learned professions. c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession. (2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace. 2 a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs. b : having a particular profession as a permanent career. c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return. 3 : following a line of conduct as though it were a profession" - Merriam-Webster Dictionary On-Line

"I'm looking into possibly hiring a running coach. Does anyone know of a good professional in the area?"

Occasionally I see a post like this in social media; a "help wanted" advertisement of sorts. The very question or statement is at best incomplete, yes, in my humble opinion. It is, in many ways, the reason I act less emotional when the occasional phone call or e-mail comes about...

I wonder if the athlete who states they're looking for a professional coach wants a person who spends their waking hours working with athletes? "Economics 101, Rule Number One," states the world has unlimited needs and limited resources. Like chicken lips, prodigies along the lines of Mary Cain or Galen Rupp come around perhaps once or twice each generation. Odds are good that if a door is going to be beaten down in the courting dance of athlete and coach it will be the athlete doing the knocking.

Any coach who remembers the pub scene from the classic film Chariots of Fire can empathize with Sam Mussabini.  Mussabini, in the film at least, reserved the right to select who he wanted to train.

Athletes all want a coach who is good, but how many coaches have earned or subscribe to a technical or ethical standard? I've met good coaches who were world and Olympic caliber, but the "I Love Me" wall shouldn't be the only standard of quality. Patrick McCrann of Marathon Nation/Endurance Nation, and Jay Johnson in Boulder are smart guys in which I'd gladly place my trust and confidence; both possess knowledge and commuincation skills which far exceed their performance C.V. A coach who has undergone some sort of training which covers the psychology of coaching, injury prevention, principles of training, running physiology, and have been tested by a national-level governing body like the Road Runners Club of America or USA Track and Field could also meet the need. Both organizations have academically-challenging and rigorous certification programs, backed by the latest scientific information, and updated on a regular basis when science proves conventional wisdom wrong. RRCA also requires their certified coaches to renew their paperwork yearly; USATF has multiple levels which, like academic degrees, allow coaches to focus more closely on their area of passion.

If the coach is not in business for themself...or affiliated with an academic institution, civic organization or running club...are they aligned with what I would call for lack of a better term, a "training 'and'" entity? What is "training 'and'?" Like fitness trainers who work at a gym or fitness center, is run coaching something which attracts the masses through the front door, ideally to purchase something else within the emporium?

Enough beating on the coach and their incentive...what does the athlete bring to the coaching relationship? Does the athlete's passion for running match that of the professional they demand as a partner? Preconceived notions and personal philosophies of training have to be put aside, directly aligned...or at least be the "eighty-percent solution." Athletes want running to be fun, but there's a time and a place; every training session has to be approached as a day at the office, every race situation is a performance appraisal. Coaches can vary in their level of empathy, compassion and just plain "niceness" (my wife reminds me I CAN be a complete jerk when it comes to communicating...). Sometimes coaches are needful for little more than to say, to paraphrase one writer (Jack Daniels?) "you look good today." And I've worked with one or two runners on little more than preparing their head for the race; they did all the physical work on their own. But there are times when the coach has to say things the athlete doesn't want to hear, assign workouts they flat out hate, or recommend (shorter, usually) race distances they'd prefer not do? If there's money changing hands, remember: The coach isn't a friend, they're part of a business proposition.

Oops, there goes one preconceived notion.

Runners pay for coaching with the intent - at least what most say - to improve. How many times does a runner approach a training program or a coach grossly under-prepared physically or mentally for the demands? More times than I care to admit. A training program, especially one developed with a coach, is a collaborative process; give and take, trust and confidence.

Patience. Pace. Pace. And patience.

Before anyone reach out to bludgeon me because of my (percenved) cynical views, it's not that I don't want the "job," or don't want to help people become, as coach (and 1964 Olympic 5,000-meter champion) Bob Schul used to say, "a better engine." I know my potential clientele will most likely not clamber through the hatchway to the scholastic-to-professional running pipeline any time soon.

A runner should insist on a modicum of background knowledge and research, flexibility and intuition from their coach...if nothing else a professional approach to making average runners better...but they also need to take a long look in the mirror. Can they say they intend to approach run training in the same manner as if their livelihood depended on its success? If so, the purely "professional" coach will be the perfect fit for them.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tacking On

So, most of the folks who read this stuff know I'm still barely 5,000-meter road racing fit; my high-end training distance is in the 6-to-8-mile range, four-to-five times a week...with a dash of repeats at threshold (for now) thrown in for good measure.  I didn't suspect it would be an issue at the beginning of the summer when I started laying out a plan for Angela, but who knew iliotibial band issues and strained hamstrings were going to happen?

Not this old guy, let me tell you.

Top the typical marathon training "embrace of the suck" with several months of physical and mental obstacles on her part, and you had a gal who was definitely long overdue for a really good day. This particular run was going to be the acid test - run well; I'd stay the course of training for the full.  A bad day would mean recommending she drop to the to fight another day.

I pulled my bicycle out of the car with expectation of a perfect training morning. We had scheduled two and a half hours to run up to 16 miles, taking a familiar and well-shaded out-and-back path.

Angela's first three miles had me a little concerned for what the next two hours were going to be like. The worst possible thing a coach can endure is watching an athlete who's proverbial "wheels" have fallen off. In that particular case, it's all about the coach. I've been the "wheel-less one" on a couple of occasions, usually solo; all you want to do after a solo run of several hours which goes south more closely resembles a well-oiled temper tantrum.

Or suicidal ideation.

Throughout the run I kept a close eye. After the turn-around point I asked the question, "How you feelin'?" I was enthused to hear Angela say she was having the first really good day since we started the marathon training. She then told me she wanted to modify her training plan for the next four weekends leading to the marathon, specifically to do 18, 20 and 22-milers over the next three weeks. I had a ten, another 2:30, an eight and another ten penciled in.

Sure, she needed to increase the training volume

Rather than immediately agree, I felt it was time to ask whether she had enough mileage in during the week. Three miles here, four miles there, another five miles there...and the long run? Yes, there's a need for more mileage, but it surely does not need to be part of a single run on the weekend. Wise men and coachly rules of thumb advise runners to make the long run no more than 25 percent of their weekly training volume. So why is it that the training plans used by most recreational marathoners will have a long run which approaches one half of the week's training distance?

To paraphrase the tail end of a radio message sent by a hapless radioman serving in the World War II-era fleet of Admiral William "Bull" Halsey..."the world wonders."

Well, this coach does, to say the least.

I get it; the first reaction of most runners is to add mileage to the long run on the weekend - whether that be on Saturday or Sunday - because that's where the "spare" time is. However, the concept flies in the face of physiological truths, namely the 2.5 hour tipping point. Physiologists and researchers, the guys with initials after their names, with names like Daniels, Costill, and Noakes, just to name a few. They found that the runner is more likely to do ill than good to themselves with a run lasting longer than 150 minutes.

Look at the overwhelming majority of training plans, with very few exceptions, and it's a guarantee the long training run is based on DISTANCE rather than time. So why twenty miles? And more?

My first reaction was to think that the coaches writing the plans followed the guidance of Hippocrates of Cos...that's the first doctor, the guy who said "first, do no harm." Considering that the most notable of training plans was written in the early 1980s, when at least half of male marathon participants ran 8:00/mile pace or faster, it's possible the 150-minute window of effect was still considered. But that would mean that as the marathon distance became more democratic, as evidenced by Running USA's yearly State of the Sport data, the median finishing times slowed by almost two minutes per mile over the course of last quarter century...which could represent the de-evolution of marathoning, or at least a failure of training plan writers to be aware of the zeitgeist.

The second possible reason is that the writer needed to find a nice round number which to recommend as the upper limit. To account for individual differences would make things a little bit, er, entertaining. You think I'm kidding? When one looks at training plans written for runners who live in the world of meters, liters and grams the longest run is 30 kilometers.

That's 18.65 miles for us English-measuring folk.

The runner who feels a need to tack-on mileage usually does it more for the benefit of the mind than of the body. While it's a given the marathoner in training is eventually going to have to do the entire distance, it's not necessary to risk injury or excessive fatigue by lots of training runs which go longer than 2.5 hours. Add-ons of up-to-five miles can be safely done the afternoon before a long run, or the afternoon after. What the runner loses in raw endurance they'll make up for in a different form, specifically the ability to run on legs that have accumulated fatigue.

Personally, I'd rather see an athlete accumulate fatigue over the course of several weekdays, topped off by a decent-length run at the weekend. Big runs on the weekend, with little training mileage during the week, place too much physical and emotional stress on the runner. One bad weekend run can do more damage to the runner's mental state than a series of hard runs during the weekday ever could.

Monday, September 22, 2014


"So, does the Pareto Principle have any relevance to run training, specifically to runs of three-to-four miles, runs of one hour, and runs of 1.5-to-2 hours?"

Leave it to my friend Carlos to drop a difficult question in my lap.

For those of you who have not dealt in matters economic or sociological, the Pareto Principle (not to be mistaken with the Peter Principle, where a person is always promoted one level beyond their competence), also known as the "80/20 principle," states that 80 percent of one measurable quality is produced by 20 percent of a population.

The first mention of the theory, attributed initially to an economist by the name of Vilfredo Pareto, had to do with crop yield; four-fifths of the harvest was produced by one-fifth of the farmland.

Management consultant Joseph Juran said that when it comes to gaining effectiveness in human endeavors, correcting 20 percent of the known weaknesses will, in theory, correct 80 percent of the problems. Once again, that's a theory.

When I began to think more closely about Pareto and the 80/20 ratio I found it aligned almost perfectly to several coaching observations:

"A person training for a marathon runs eighty percent of their training mileage at paces which are too fast, and twenty percent at a pace which is too slow."  In a perfect world, the longest training run during the week would not exceed 25 percent of the training volume. Unfortunately, most of the packaged plans, regardless of the coach, are not prescriptive enough as to how intense the long run should be.

I guess its the Donald Rumsfeld theory of coaching; those knowable known, unknowable unknowns and perfectly good running socks which end up going missing in the dryer.

A marathoner who is capable of running continuously for two and a half hours at eight minutes per mile can reasonably consider twenty miles as their longest marathon training run. What drives me insane is to see a runner with a marathon goal performance of three hours, thirty minutes doing all of their long runs at nine minutes per mile for every mile of their long training runs. Oh, and the same pace goes for every mile of their "recovery" runs during the training week.

In order to race at a particular pace it's important to train at that particular pace. Long runs which start at 30 seconds per mile slower than the target pace and finish up at the target pace or a little faster, averaging out to the target pace, that's good.

"Eighty percent of a runner's mileage ideally are 'easy' runs, with the other twenty percent at lactate threshold or faster."  Even the 5,000-meter race distance on the roads is an aerobic event, with more than nine-tenths of the race run using the aerobic energy system.

Dr. Jack Daniels recommends, in his "Running Formula," ten percent of the weekly training mileage to be run at the lactate (or aerobic) threshold, eight percent to be run near VO2max pace, and five percent at VO2max. The rest is to be run at intensities which are a minute slower than marathon goal where a runner could most likely engage in a discussion on the Pareto Principle.

A runner who takes the time to look at the biggest training bugaboos, having to do with training intensity and training mileage, are likely to take care of most all of the big problems which hold back their run performance.

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's NOT All About You.

Q: "How did the girl know her blind date with a runner was half finished?"
A: "He said, 'Well, enough about me, let's talk about running.'"

I thought the "Navy blue and gold" water bottle and the hand towel on the console would have been a subtle hint.  In any case, there was absolutely no need for the elderly gentleman to shut down the treadmill on which I had been running.  ALL six treadmills in the room besides that one were NOT being used.  Fortunately for the both of us there were only three other persons exercising in the room, and a couple of staff members.  I raised my hands to shoulder height and said, "Whaaa?"

"I didn't notice your stuff was there until I got up here."  The gentleman in his mind was perhaps correct, but the white of the towel and the gold of the bottle...  I don't like to attribute to malice what might be more readily put down to ignorance, but every once in a while the passive-aggressive behaviors of the more seasoned citizenry in that gym facility borders on the dynamic of a kindergarten.  It gets more entertaining during certain times of the year.

The "it's all about me" mentality has gained more traction over time, to the point where journalists in the electronic media have started to discuss.  My trip last weekend to Virginia was also a brief detox from social media stuff; I left the computer at home, there were no e-mails worth reading on my cell phone.  But the missus and the kids had seen an article title, which got us to talking about polite society and the failure of people to behave in such a way.  Then, four days after I get home, I get the reminder that etiquette may not necessarily be dead, but appears in need of resuscitation.  And quickly.

Here are a couple of helpful reminders for those of you who run in a public place, with other persons, for recreation or fitness reasons...

At The Gym:
Are there specific time limits for the machines, especially when patrons are waiting?  Many gyms see treadmill workouts as a prelude to strength training; many runners, for that matter, would rather shove a sharp stick in their eye than stay on a treadmill for any longer than thirty minutes.  That appears to make half-an-hour the gold standard when others are waiting.

If you're playing music to help pass the time, keep the headphones turned to a reasonable level.  I've heard, in the past, music coming from headphones which were fifteen feet away.  On a runner's ears. MiracleEar stock, anyone?  Television sets for visual distraction and entertainment are lovely.  But I'll admit there are programs and channels I do NOT want to watch.  Always ask of your fellow patrons before doing the clicky-thing.

And ALWAYS wipe down the treadmill console.  The deck is also important, because you don't want to see the next person on the machine go slipping off the back.  At least, not until you have a video camera ready.  But wipe down - preferably with mild disinfectant - any surface where a runner is going to place exposed flesh.

At The Track:
If you have an all-weather facility for speed work, thank the school district or municipality which had the foresight to install it.  Now it's up to you to take good care of it; schools don't like throwing good money after bad, and will replace a worn-out polyurethane track with (cheaper) asphalt in nothing flat.  Most facilities will have signs which tell people to not bring strollers, skateboards, bicycles, roller skates and dogs; both for safety and for damage reasons.  A wheeled conveyance places more pressure in a smaller area for a longer period of time than most shod or shoeless runners.

How do you know if you should be in the inside or outside lanes?  Persons who are walking should almost always use the outer half of the track lanes.  As for runners, if you find that you are passing more people than you are passing you, you probably should use the inside-most lanes, and vice versa. In the case there are very fast persons doing speed work, or organized team workouts, it's best to stay wide.

Group Runs:
If you know one or more persons who have time schedules and ability levels which align with your own, you are blessed.  There aren't many things you need to do to make life nice for all.  When it comes to headphones, I say 'not unless everyone has them.'  If everyone has a pair of headphones and a music player, why would you want to be all together for a run?  Is it not a social thing?

The second concern has much to do with pace.  I would much rather have the overall group pace drop back to keep the slowest runner in the group with the group than faster and have them struggle.  The group can always get faster as people improve, right?  Dropping a person on a run is an unforgivable sin of the highest order.

"Racing," wrote the running philosopher-king Dr. George Sheehan, "is the love-making of a runner." Everyone fancies themselves a great runner, but when we toe the line with a hundred, thousand, or ten thousand of our closest friends, that's where all the inhibitions (and illusions) go by the wayside.

Jumping onto a race course without registering, or "banditing," is a cardinal sin of the highest order, and if one wishes to place legal terms, it's a form of theft.  A person who jumps into an event without paying the requisite entry fee is STEALING, from the race director (in all cases), the organization for which the event benefits (in the case of a non-profit) and the other stakeholders who have helped by their entry fee to pay for the insurance, course protection and whatnot.  Simply put, don't do it.

It's okay to wear the race shirt on the day of the event, but the one thing which will draw a runner out as a grade-A "newbie" is placing the run number on the back of the shirt.  If your name is recognizable by a single name to thousands of track or running enthusiasts and the race promoter provides a bib with your name to place on your front side, then it's acceptable to place the number on the back.  Otherwise, you're just a number like the rest of us.  It's okay.  You'll get used to it.

Self-seeding is good.  Race directors who place pace group signs are very good people.  Corrals are also very good.  People who think they're faster than they are and stage themselves too far forward, not so good.  Why?  When I have to place a hand on your shoulder as I'm running by in the first one-hundred yards and you look like I hit you with a cattle prod, it tells me that you placed yourself too far to the front of a race.  Moms and dads:  Your six-year-old standing at the starting line with the Kenyans might look cute, but you're obstructing the hard work and training of a lot of persons who have trained for longer than your child has been alive.  Mary Decker retired long ago.  Mary Cain deserves to be there..

While you're at it, think about how you move along the race course.  Three-or-four-deep running or walking abreast, playing like "red rover" is not a good thing.  Quite simply, you're obstructing other participants, in most cases this injustice is compounded by the sensory loss of headphone use.  The RRCA asks member clubs and events to discourage the use, and some have taken steps to ban them. How many of the top-shelf runners have you seen wear headphones at a race?  That should tell you something.  Don't do it.  If you absolutely have to, then TURN THE MUSIC DOWN.  Nine times out of ten you've got it on too loud, I guarantee it.

During The Rest of Your Life:
We all love running.  It permeates every aspect of our lives, from the sticker on our car to our personal e-mail address.  Trouble is that we live in a world with people who still think it's bad for our knees, leads to evil degenerative diseases, and is, in the words of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, a waste of perfectly good heartbeats.  We all love to talk about our training, the last killer workout we did and the epic race for which we just registered.  To the discomfort of our family, co-workers and non-running acquaintances.

I learned an important lesson during the first season of triathlon refereeing.  I knew I was going to see a lot of people I knew while working in the transition area before a race.  My mentor, Jay reminded me that it was all right to say hello and exchange pleasantries, but to limit my conversation to a brief thirty-second period of time.  That way I could help educate other athletes and remain as fair and impartial as possible.

If you feel the need to talk about running with non-runner companions or family, perhaps you can try to limit it to thirty.  Then ask them about their day.  At least by that point they'll know the date is half over.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Simplify, Simplify

"Our life is frittered away by detail.  Simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

Endurance, in the mind of a runner, is usually defined in terms of distance or time.  How far can you run?  How long can you run?  And, in the words of one of my favorite musicians, the hope is you may run long.  Thank you, Neil.

For the rest of the world it's pretty much the ability to suck it up and drive on; that seemingly endless move from one living space to another.  Less enjoyable than even the worst long run, in my humble opinion.  And, worse yet, often more social than we would care to admit.

A friend will help you move.
A good friend will help you move the body.
A parent will help you choose the body to be moved.

Suzanne and I managed to coincide our visit to Virginia Beach to run the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon with the weekend our son and his wife were to move from a 3,000 square foot house to an apartment of about one-half the size.  Thankfully, they divested themselves of a butt-ton of stuff before we came to help, er, visit.  When it was all said and done - more done than said, frankly - I was reminded that we fritter our training life with too may details.

Especially when I saw many of my fellow participants the next day.  A distance event produced by an organization who obviously are not participating in their first rodeo, like CGI, have most of the hydration, transportation and other (capitalistic) factors figured out.  Water bottle holsters and music players at these events: Needless fritter in light of thousands of fellow supplicants, a dozen bands and cheer squads of varying qualities, and plenty of aid stations, regardless of the recommendations of pseudo-scientific beverage-funded research groups and the American College of Sports Medicine.

But, back to the simple thing.  I knew from the outset of my training this summer the chances I would NOT be prepared for a strong half-marathon were strong.  Inflame an iliotibial band and strain a hamstring, and those chances become a near-certainty.

Face it; 5K fit is not half-marathon fit.  Never has been.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is most likely going to endure a good hour or two of discomfort on the course and a day or two of discomfort on the job.

Smarter coaches have pontificated on the deep specifics of what it takes to get ready for a race.  To me, it all boils down to four workouts.  I'm going to talk specifically to the five kilometer distance for purposes of simplicity.

Long run - six-to-eight miles.  Run at a pace where you can hold a conversation.  Once a week.

Tempo run - three-to-five miles, run at a pace which is "comfortably hard."  Once a week.

Race pace work - one-to-five minutes of fairly hard work with complete recovery in between.  When I say complete recovery, I mean where the runner can say "I can repeat this piece again."  And do it. No more than three miles a week.

Easy runs - four-to-six miles, run at a pace where you can talk in single sentences, at the least.  Rest of the week.

Naturally, as the time progresses from the beginning of the training year to the last six weeks. the runner can adjust the long/tempo run distance.  Listen to your body and keep things simple; it's likely you're going to have a good day more often than not.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stretchy Laces

When one has much to put in them, a day has a thousand pockets. - Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher.

I believe in empty spaces.  They're the most wonderful thing. - Anselm Kiefer, painter.

I've written about the joy of elastic laces in the past; I truly do like them for the obvious reason of comfort.  Tension, once set at the beginning of the run or workout, does not lessen.  Even better, the tension on the foot does not increase when the foot swells.

But what do you do when there's an eyelet-to-lace mismatch; too many eyelets or too little elastic lace for comfortable use?  A "snug" fit without need to adjust the toggle might be acceptable when sliding the foot into the shoe for many.  But take a runner with a highly-arched instep, caused by a foot broken many years before, and let's say there is such a state as "too snug" a fit.

A revelation of sorts came to me when dealing with that pair of Asics Gel Noosa I referred to in passing two months ago.  Perhaps the shoe manufacturers and the lace makers have seen a future shortage of elastic laces.  Maybe they're cutting back on the length of the stretchy strings, because when I looped all the elastic in the classic "bar at the bottom, X at the top" layout there was no room for the fastening toggle, much less any slack.

When I looked more closely at the problem it struck me that I didn't need to use every last eyelet to ensure the shoe upper fabric would securely cradle my foot.  In fact, a "blank" eyelet between every two used for lacing gave just the right mix of security and comfort.  Joy returned again to my running.

The issue with the shoe eyelets appears also as an allegory for run training.  Think of shoe eyelets as days of the week on the calendar.  Runners who can fit a run in every day of the week without risking an overuse injury - soreness and aching muscles is one thing, overuse injuries is another - live in the best of all possible worlds. Runners who regularly deal with overuse injuries would do well to leave a little empty space during the running week.  Empty space in the calendar is a little slack; it gives the runner the option to tighten things up or let things relax.

Our running life isn't always swell...but sometimes it is.  Be ready and willing to find a way to adjust rather than meekly submit to the pain.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Happy" Place?

I love music.
I always have.
But I also love good food - especially good beer. Love, or obsession, often leads to overindulgence and undesirable medical outcomes. Thus, I'm forced by necessity to run, not sit in my living room with a musical instrument in one hand and an adult beverage in the other...pondering the mysteries of the universe; searching for the missing (and perfect) chord.
I learned the effect of music on athletic performance while dabbling in sports and playing in school bands. My Little League coach decided the world needed to hear the Eagles' new album in its' glorious entirety during a late season batting session. We both realized that my (shaky) hand-eye coordination, timing and swing mechanics amazingly improved during the second verse of "Life In The Fast Lane."
Sure to make you lose your mind.
Years down the road, running became therapy. After spending months and years listening to, learning and playing there were entire albums of music I could recall down to the note. A "Walkman with legs." So, when I reached a point where a run became daunting I could recall a tune which would allow me to forget whatever part of my body was uncomfortable and go to my happy place.
Some tunes are perfect for those easy days when the goal is, just simply, put time on the feet. This last Sunday I kept Angela company on her 12-miler; spare water bottle, cell phone and what-not. And "Little Wing" running through my head. A strange sense of coincidence (perhaps) came over me yesterday afternoon as I hit the last mile of my treadmill run...
Butterflies and zebras.
I had Sting's version in my head, but there's nothing like Jimi Hendrix in your treadmill loudspeakers. Or any loudspeakers, for that matter.
Music and running are individual tastes. Some folks who love to do really long runs, and dig pastoral or classical pieces. Then there are the short, fast, intense experiences which lend themselves to heavy metal or thrash. Occasionally a runner will show up for a speed workout at the track with a music player...I'm less cranky about it than I used to be, but I often tell them the music player will not be necessary:
First reason - a rare, occasionally strange activity in which I engage, called "coaching."
Second reason - fitness clubs who play music in the background will use a driving beat to keep the patrons pumped a certain degree...during their workout. There are some workout studios where the music is more relaxed; those are the places where one might find the iron-slingers sporting headphones and pushing Drowning Pool into their brains.
Let the bodies hit the floor. As long as it's not mine.
My regular spinning instructor loves to play Motown during her classes; nothing says "torment" like a 17-minute standing climb while listening to Isaac Hayes. A friend of mine who substitute taught for her this week hit us with the "guitar god" playlist - Carlos Santana, Derek Trucks, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton.
Good stuff, Maynard.
One of my co-workers complained that he was less likely to follow the cadence calls of the instructor than to the song tempo. Got it. Research shows we tend to lock into certain tempos and beats and stay there. That's the reason Pharrell Williams, Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers are so, um, infectious right now. They make us, er, "happy." We do what it takes to stay in that happy place.
Racing, however, is all about not staying in ones' happy place, but of going a little beyond it. So if I come beside you at a race and I can hear the faint strains of "Blurry" I'll safely assume you have a very intense happy place.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What Gets Measured?

"What gets measured gets done."

During the first years of my brief career as a performance improvement technologist that particular phrase was drilled deeply into my head. If an individual, shop, business or organization wanted to know it was successful at doing their prime mission it was important to find a way to tie nice, firm numbers to what they did. In the case of a school it could be how long it took to take a learner from the beginning of their learning experience to the point when they were ready or able to go out into the world; the number of tasks a learner could accomplish at the end of their schooling compared to the beginning, the increase in accuracy, perhaps even the cost of the schooling. Decreased time or cost; increased skill or accuracy, naturally, are considered good results.

Measures which have deep meaning to the individual, the business or the organization - especially when an improved measure benefits their cause - lend themselves to devices or plans to gauge accurately what is going on. I worked on a project with an organization that measured performance of a particular task by the number of times the task was performed during a particular period of time. More, as you can suspect, does not always lead to better. You can either end up with too much of a good thing or too much of a less-than-good thing, neither of which are a good thing.

I encounter a good example of a wrong unit of measurement quite often. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a race participant complain that a course was “thirty seconds too long” I could buy a few nice things. Lesson number one: With perhaps the possible exception of light-years, units of time are not the most-valid measure of linear distance. A tool which was never meant for the purpose the operator has decided to employ it will frustrate the performance improvement consultant.

I now work in the instructional systems design world; we use a model which asks us to first plan for training, analyze what needs to be trained, design and develop the instruction. Lastly, we implement and evaluate the training’s end result. The planning document we use tells - like most newspaper articles - the who, what, where, when, why and how…as well as the “how much” and “how many” questions. The head of my organization, however, wants to use the planning document for a time frame which goes way beyond the lifespan of the planning period. Why do well-intentioned measures of valued qualities persist in being measured with the wrong tool? The psychologist Abraham Maslow said it best, “if the only tool you have is a hammer every problem is a nail.”

Runners, cyclists, swimmers and multisport athletes, not to mention fitness enthusiasts and folks like me who work to drop a few pounds have at our disposal a myriad of on-line and off-line tools to track nearly every unit of measure which means something to us. I play with several of them on a regular basis so I can answer the important “which one is best for my need” question. Like every other piece of technology I am frequently torn between frustration and fidelity when “1.0 transforms into 2.0,” and so on. It’s bad enough to have to re-think how to measure what’s important when hardware dies on you and you move up the technological food chain. But when the maker of your device does a complete scrub of your on-line measurement software, your computer’s software, and the partnerships to which you’ve become accustomed…well, let’s just say I’m about to stop trying to use my hammer as a monkey wrench.

Keep your measures of performance simple and you're less likely to be frustrated.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Wrong Questions?

"If they can get you asking the wrong questions they don't have to worry about the answers." - Thomas Pynchon

Not surprisingly, being a coach of (adult) runners is not what pays my bills.  I possess a (small) mercenary streak; my relationship with the running/multisport world provides more emotional and psychic income than it does direct compensation.  Analysis in one form or another, for over three decades, has been my thing.

Situation - Question - Isolation - Solution - Action - Resolution.  Sounds easy, right?  Only if the incentive for "resolution" is in the best interest of the person...or the organization...enduring the situation.  If incentives don't exist, trust doesn't happen.  And the analyst is seen as a pain in the back side: a person you steer to ask questions you don't mind answering or to justify your own planned action.

So, when I got a "do this-or-that" question from Angela she had the question partly right.  She asked it in terms of workout; the problem was that she'd been wrestling with one nagging illness after another.  And as if motherhood wasn't challenging enough, her husband Chris is a trainer at the organization where I work.  Doesn't matter what level of education you're in, a school is a petri dish.  Most offices are that way, too, but schools are the exemplar.  One sick kid leads to two dozen others...a "gift" to teacher which keeps on giving.  And that's what happened.

I had to tell Angela that it wasn't a "speed work-versus-long run this weekend" choice, but a "recovery-versus-stupidity" one.  (She's not stupid, just driven, like most every other runner looking into a marathon.)  Sick or injured?  Your focus no longer on training, but on getting better. Once you're better you can go back to training.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pace and Patience

What does it take to become a good runner?

I guess that all depends on the definition of "good."

Coaches - nearly all of whom are much smarter than I, most have personal bona fides which exceed my own - are likely to say that outside of being blessed with genetically gifted parents it is absolutely necessary to have courage, a teachable spirit, and a work ethic that borders on masochism. A sense of humor, a sense of perspective and the ability to think when necesssary doesn't hurt.

Dale Fox, my coach back in the days of the Emerald Coast Racing Team, often reminded me "running is a sport of pace and patience." If he was reminding me in an e-mail the first quality would be spelled in all capitals. The second had the first quality capitalized within it (for those who have a hard time visualizing..."PACE and PAtienCE"...). The two are inextricably entwined, especially in championship-level racing.

Last month's NCAA Track and Field Championships were object lessons in the benefits of pace and patience, taught by men's 1,500 meter champ Mac Fleet, and Edward Cheserek, the men's 10,000 meter champion. The women's distance events were almost as tutorial, but Cheserek's performance in the men's 10K was patience exemplified.

Texas Tech's Kennedy Kithuka tried to force 'an honest pace' for the first eight kilometers, but he did not want to be in the unenviable position of front-runner. Cheserek, Oklahoma State's Shadrack Kipchichir and Wisconsin's Mohammed Ahmed patiently wore Kithuka down and spit him out at the ninth kilometer, after which point Cheserek only had to remain...yes, patient...for another 600 meters before dropping the hammer on the more-experienced Oklahoma State and Wisconsin competitors.

One of the best reasons to engage in a speed training regimen, in my opinion, is not that the runner develops raw speed. Over a period of time they also develop a sense of pace discipline. The first five or six weeks' worth of workouts - especially during the summer heat and humidity - lays a base foundation from which the athlete and coach can move. The athlete learns the coach's expectations and idiosyncrasies; the coach figures out strengths and areas which may need remediation.

Sometimes there are glaring, easily-noticed form issues which can be fixed without risk of injury. What are the changes in stride and body mechanics as the workout progresses? What is the athlete's endurance level? Do they need to have the reins pulled in early on so they can finish the workout on a high note?

Cheserek's pace during the race did not vary by more than two seconds from one lap to the for the last one, when he ran a (completely insane) 53-second 400 after (648 feet shy of) six miles at 69 seconds a lap. For those of you playing the home game, that's about a 4:35 pace.

(I've done 16 times 400 meters, with 100-to-150 meters of walk recovery, at 72-to-75 seconds before. Eight more would have, on a good day, put me a lap to two laps down in comparison. However, it is more likely the effort would have put me in the hospital.)

That sort of work is the end-product of the genetics, courage, teachability and masochism I spoke of earlier. Not to mention five years of solid training. Probably lots and lots of 53-second quarters; the kind of stuff which makes 24 back-to-back 69s seem pretty darn, er, simple.

That's where the "genius factor" comes in. Lots of runners are capable of running 5:47 miles, or 86-second quarters. The genius part is tying three -- or twelve -- and-small-change of them together without fail to run that elusive sub-18-minute 5,000 meters on the road. Marathons, too, are a test of consistency; can you stay patient through the first hour when everyone feels hunky-dory, hooting and having a great time?

To do well in distance running often means learning what the "red line" on race day ought to be. Once you've figured that race day top end, then you collect efforts beyond that red line in small, manageable pieces. Once you have enough of those small manageable pieces, then you learn to put them together like a building block castle. At times it falls apart; you have to pick up your blocks and start over. Other times you find you didn't have enough blocks to finish the job.

But when it all comes together, ain't it a pretty sight?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Does The Vehicle Always Win?

I can't blame this one on the heat. Definitely not the heat.

About thirty minutes into one of our easy, breezy Sunday morning long jaunts I was starting to feel...rather normal. I already told Charley and George, my two run companions for the morning, that I would engage in a brief walk period a half-hour in. They were still close, between fifty and one-hundred yards immediately behind me, traveling up a two-lane, tree-lined road on the back side of our "international" airport. I had just been passed by a pick-up truck going the opposite direction; not a new occurrence, as several entry-level aviators and their instructors often come up that way early on Sunday.

About five seconds later I hear curses, oaths, vulgarities, epithets and the like being exchanged back and forth. Charley and the motor vehicle operator are jawing at each other. I turned back to watch and heard the word 'gun' bandied about. This cannot bode well. The two continued to exchange "pleasantries" for another minute or so.

The operator, convinced in his own mind of the correctness of his driving -- and probably late to his job, decided to move on. At that particular point I was more concerned for the safety of my loving bride, who was no more than five minutes back. Was the guy going to take his frustration out on her? Those stress hormones aren't all that helpful when it comes to rational thought and judgement. Next thing you know I'll find the missus as an unintentional hood ornament. Bad day. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrians were one of the few groups of road users to experience an increase in fatalities in the United States in 2012, totaling 4,432 deaths. NHTSA also estimates that sixteen times that number (76,000) were injured while walking, jogging, running or hiking during the same year. If you're male, older than 45, running between 8 and 11 pm, in an urban area, during clear/normal weather conditions the chances of being injured or killed in a collision with a motor vehicle operator are higher than the average bear. 

So, does drunken driving play a role in who gets hit, hurt or permanently harmed? Not as much as we would guess. Drivers involved in a pedestrian accident were found to have blood-alcohol concentrations above the legal limit in only 14 percent of the cases, whereas the pedestrian was twice as likely to have had more than one drink in their system when they were struck by a car.

An April 2014 NHTSA document on Pedestrian Traffic Safety provides the usual common-sense important safety reminders:

"Walk on a sidewalk or path whenever one is available. If no sidewalk or path is available, walk facing traffic (on the left side of the road) on the shoulder, as far away from traffic as possible." In our case, we were on a shoulder-less stretch of road.

"Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including radios, smart phones and other devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road environment." Perfect sense to me. How many times have I harped on runners with headphones? Don't ask, says my wife.

"Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not seeing you). Try to make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen." Yeah...I usually wave in their direction when I can clearly see their face. 

"Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flash light at night." Great idea! I wish more persons who walked or ran would consider this, especially the ones who get their miles in during the early hours of the morning.

"Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and judgment too." Very well; I'll save the beer drinking for when I hash.

In spite of the commonly-quoted dictum: "when a pedestrian goes up against a motor vehicle, the motor vehicle always wins," I hope my motoring friends remember that in this age of cell phones and (increasing) surveillance cameras, the motor vehicle might win but karma can also come back to take a pound of flesh (with added percentage points) from the motorist.

It's not the heat (of the moment), but (occasionally) the stupidity. More pedestrian traffic statistics and information can be found at the NHTSA site,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Let's Talk Christmas...In July

How many of you received a pair of running shoes as a holiday present?  A quick show of hands, if you please.
How many of you can tell me when you bought your last pair of running shoes; once again a show of hands?
Those of you who raised your hands for the first question or couldn't raise your hand to answer the's high time for us to take a trip to your local running emporium.  Let's take a stroll through the accessory section; look at some items which you can use to trick out your kicks...
First, how about a nice pair of replacement insoles?  There's a variety and range from the most simple replacement sockliner (more-or-less the technical term for what passes for original equipment) to borderline semi-custom orthotics for the biomechanically less-than-gifted.  Doing a lot of long distance runs?  There's an insole just for you, too.  Personally, I love the silicone rubber ones because they last a long, long time.
Ooh...what are these here?  Elastic laces?  One of the last pairs of triathlon-specific running shoes I bought (outside of the fact they were louder than a Friday night in the French Quarter) came with an optional pair of elastics.  While distance runners don't necessarily feel the need for speed...when it comes to lacing 'em up (not unless you're like me and constantly running behind for the Sunday morning meet-up) the elastic shoelaces are a wonder, especially if you have feet that tend to swell after 60 or 90 minutes of running.  No more ache in the instep or need to re-tie the shoe to lessen the pressure.  And you don't have to worry about your shoelaces coming untied or flapping about during a big race.
You got something that looks like it will work, huh?  Let's go up to the check-out counter.
Stop.  For the love of Pre, stop.  I cannot believe you would do this to yourself.  You still need a pair of shoes.
I've met many a runner who have decided to be penny-wise and pound-foolish; deciding to stick a forty-dollar pair of insoles into a shoe that's had six months or 500 miles of use.  In a way, that's like putting new tires on a car with a wheel alignment issue.  Just because the outer sole - most often good, firm rubber - may not look worn, but the midsole is what takes the brunt of the banging when we run.  Nearly every runner I've talked to who has complained of soreness in the ankles, knees or lower back usually has stayed in a (favorite) pair of running shoes longer than the effective lifespan.  Once the shoes have been changed out the problem subsides.
We have EVA, ethylene vinyl acetate, to thank for shock absorption.  That spongy stuff comes in a variety of firmness and lasts for a fairly long time, but it doesn't last forever.  The difference between the "give" when you push your finger into the midsole of a brand new running shoe (after you remove the sockliner/insole) and one that's had a couple of hundred miles put on it is noticeable.  Even a pair which has been out for longer than six months (one where the rubber doesn't have that mild vinegar smell) is closer to the end of its effective lifespan than the former.
A runner who still feels a sentimental attachment to a pair of shoes can stand to wash their shoe, put a new insole in them and keep them around, but the shoe is best for emergency use; walking or mowing lawns.  Better yet, consider being a little less sentimental about that pair of running shoes; donate them to one of the many charitable groups which pass good, workable shoes along to persons in need.  You can call it re-gifting, if you so like.  Personally I'm not opposed to that form of re-gifting. July.  And those accessories are still a good idea.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We Make The Path...By Walking

Social media can be our best friend and our worst adversary, depending on our state of mind and the motives of the people with whom we choose to interact.

Keep those last few words in mind, if you will, from 'with whom.'

This week I originally planned to talk about the (relative) benefits of walking when compared to running.  It's one of those topics that I don't think I've considered (much) as a coach of runners, much less as a "self-coached runner."  Physician, author and ultra-runner Timothy Noakes dedicates two solid and introspective pages to it in the "Developiing a Training Base" chapter of his seminal work Lore of Running.

For those who have not purchased or accessed the book (one of those "if you were stuck in a place with only x number of books at your disposal" tomes) that is less than a "blip on the radar screen" in the grand scheme of the entire (800-page) work.

Runners don't like to talk much about walking because, Noakes writes, walking is what runners do when they can no longer run or have "failed" during their race performance.  The American ultra-runner/writer (and founding member of the Road Runners Club of America, if memory serves me correctly) Tom Osler first recommended walks as part of run training; it's (the disciples of?) former Olympic 10,000-meter runner-turned-running author Jeff Galloway who brought the walk interval to the mainstream running consciousness.  As I age I am less likely to deride Galloway for the democratization of running, save for the (highly-mistaken) assertion that every person can do a marathon.

As in the words of a good friend:  Just because you can doesn't mean that you should.

Not to mention the fact Galloway's statement humans were not meant to run long distances flies in the face of evolutionary biologist (and barefoot running heretic?) Daniel Lieberman's postulations in the pages of Christopher McDougall's barefoot running manifesto Born To Run.

This is starting to sound like one of those "the adversary of my adversary is my ally" realpolitik arguments.

But back to walking.  Which is how I spent my Sunday morning.  A rest day, mind you, but one where I felt someone (since my loving bride was out of town) needed to be out at the group run/jog/walk/traipse/shuffle/skip/amble/ get the picture without all the "slashing," I take it.  Just in case there was a walker.

So I did a solitary five miles out on the same course my companions would run, taking time to listen to the birds, squirrels and automobiles passing.  It was a nice change, relatively speaking.

Most every person understands that running and walking are not the same biomechanically, calorically, or cardiovascularly.  A 160-pound guy who runs a mile burns about 20 percent more calories than if he were to walk a mile, which might have something to do with the biomechanics of springing off the legs rather than extending from one leg to the other.  Or the effort taken to cool the body, perhaps.  A five-mile jaunt run rather than walked, then, adds an additional 100 calories "to the good" of our hypothetical 160-pounder.

But the varying biomechanics between long-distance walking and running might not be such a bad thing.   While running beats the beejeezus (there's a technical term which needs to enter the physiological realm) out of people, in most cases walking - unless it's done in extreme terrain - is less-likely to do the damage that running does.

Top this with the slower pace, which means the ability to observe, listen and ponder the myriad of sensations surrounding one's self...should one decide to not shove headphones into their ears...and the relative loss in single-occasion training benefit (negligible) might be compensated for by spiritual and emotional rejuvenation.  Of course, the proviso is that this activity be done in a solitary manner.  I've done more than my share of (longer) walks where by the end of the course we had ALL of the world's problems solved...but forgot to write down the solutions.