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, May 26, 2014

Time Is The Final Currency, 2.0

(NOTE:  This is an update to a topic I originally wrote almost three years ago.)

Mother Nature appears to have bet "all-in" on her hand this weekend.  We were lulled into complacency by the past three weeks of very humid running.  Today she flipped the switches; turned off the humidity and turned up the thermostat. Our intrepid little group of running enthusiasts had to change tack; no longer were we working to develop our "gill slits," now it was time to make a classic Hobson's choice:  Choose to run (up to) three percent farther on the long run by staying in the shaded areas of our course, or risk thermal annihilation by traveling the shortest possible distance between two points.

Angela, our recent import from Maryland, was just starting to get used to the humid, but in her rush to get everything else in her life (mother, spouse, community advocate, etc.) under control forgot to bring along her "shoulder-fired hydration system."  Six miles without water is not going to kill you. Six miles in the mid-eighties might make you feel miserable, but it is not going to kill you.  On the other hand, it might make you want to commit seppuku, or dive off the bridge into the bayou. Fortunately for us the country club driving range - the mid point of our run - had three large jugs of cool water.  Bless you, boys.  I take back every evil thing I ever said about golf.

Almost every evil thing.

We chatted about the conditions and obstacles to the present training - long, easy runs on the weekend, easy runs during the week as often as possible between now and when marathon training begins in earnest for us in July.  Angela's challenge has become that of time management.  How does a person with so many irons in the fire make enough time for quality training?

In fact, how does the average American?

I bet the data hasn't changed much since 2010, when the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found 22 percent of American men and 16 percent of American women over the age of 15 engaged in sports, recreation or exercise activity.  When the amount of activity was divided up equally it averaged to a little under 20 minutes a day for the entire population of America.  Wasn't that "twenty-minute-a-day" threshold (more or less) recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine in 2008 the lower end?  The floor?  The least of an unacceptable standard?

The government survey data reinforces something my wife often reminds me when I become frustrated at a runner's absence from workout sessions:  We invest our time, finances, and resources into the things we consider the most important.

An athlete, pressed for time, needs to realize the training is not necessarily a zero-sum game: 'I have a sixty-minute run on the schedule today, but I don't have an hour to spare; I'm wasting my time if I do less.'  Sometimes, especially for people whose lives revolve around the suddenly-changing needs/wants/desires of others, it's impossible to set a consistent block of time aside to dedicate to a workout.  Without a "typical," "normal" sleep schedule.

If the athlete is focused on shorter race distances, two-or-three high-quality workout sessions of 30 minutes (with at least 20 minutes of the workout at the desired intensity for the training period) might do the trick.  While some physiologists have opined that anything less than 20 minutes of aerobic activity is probably not going to provide a benefit, I don't think there's enough data to support the claim.  From personal experience I can say my strength training workouts are not much longer than 35 minutes; unlike the bodybuilders I'm a "get in, get my three sets of each exercise, get out" kind of guy.  No lollygagging in the gym.

There are benefits to splitting a workout, especially if your life is one where stuff often pops up at the last possible moment.  A little bit is always better than nothing. A 30-minute run before I go to work, or during my lunch break is three-and-a-half-miles I got done. I haven't beat myself up too much; there's that calorie burn as my body is winding down from the effort, and I'm stimulated as much as if I sucked down a cup of coffee. Even better, if something suddenly comes up in the evening which requires my non-running presence I'm less likely to feel guilty.  Also, there's a fatigue factor which comes during the second workout; unless the effort is dead-easy I end up going into the second run already fatigued.

Are there down sides to splitting runs?

The first drawback may be when it comes to endurance. Running two 30-minute pieces a day may work well for a runner focused on races up to 10,000 meters, but for longer events some of the training still need to be anywhere from 8-to-16 miles.  The physiologist recommended top-end of two-and-a-half hours for long run is a fine splitting point for runners using training plans with scheduled long runs which are longer than 16.  Two-and-a-half hours of running on Saturday morning (or afternoon), followed by (up to) 60-to-90 minutes on Sunday, is more likely to keep my wife and family members happy as marathon training grinds into the later weeks of the plan. 

In our household, the dirty clothes already multiply at an astounding clip. Two runs a day means dirty running attire accumulate at twice the rate, unless you are the kind of person who can tolerate running in funky attire...with training partners who can also tolerate the same...or you run all your workouts solo.  Add the sweaty shoes which need to dry or need time to dry; you'll either spend time shoving newsprint inside the shoe, money to maintain a running shoe arsenal, ingenuity in learning how to make wet shoes less wet in as little as eight hours.  Or you develop a tolerance for damp running shoes.

Lastly, splitting runs in two means more attention to the (brief) recovery period available. When running twice a day run efforts ideally vary between hard and easy, or all of the efforts are relatively easy. A good diet, portable self-massage devices, regular hydration and even sports supplementation also become more important during the period between runs.

"Time," David Crosby wrote, "is the final currency." We can only spend what we have available at a particular moment. It doesn't necessarily mean the time we have during a day for running is absolutely limited to one unbroken 60-minute period (and bless those of you who have more!). With a little discipline and the desire to do what is absolutely necessary, even the time-constrained runner can achieve the goals they've set for themselves. It all boils down to will.

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