Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Your Mark, Get Set, Lift?

How to Run Faster without Running    
    by Bob Wells, PES

In August, when I signed up for the Komen NYC Race for the Cure, I had a list of three things that I wanted to accomplish with today's race:

1. Run my first 5k. 
2. Raise money for charity.  
3. Train for the race without actually running. Yes. Really. I’m serious. Keep reading!

It’s the last one that raised eyebrows with my friends, clients, and other coaches. After the race, many people confided that they had secretly doubted my ability to finish. They imagined that I would be doubled over along the course somewhere, cramping, crying out for my mother. Instead, I finished strong, sprinting at the end to finish with a respectable 30:00. 

However, heading into the race, I had my own doubts and knew that I would face a few hurdles, including issues with distance, pacing, and breathing.
  1. Distance- As a former sprinter and running back, I had never run more than a mile in my life. And then, it was only twice. Ever. Yes, really. I didn’t even know what 5K felt like.
  2. Pacing- As I mentioned earlier, I am a former sprinter. I had no idea how to pace a race such as a 5K. As a sprinter, you essentially run as hard as you can for the duration of the race. This need to pace was going to be a brave new world, and I was going to need help.
  3. Breathing- As a sprinter, I was always taught to breathe forcefully. Sprinting is primarily anaerobic, so any need to replenish limited oxygen supply is superfluous. 

When I started my training program, I calculated that I would need the aerobic capacity and the strength to be able to run for 30 minutes. Lower body strength (600lb squat, 505 deadlift) was definitely not an issue, but building up my cardiovascular capabilities was going to be a challenge. Especially doing the whole not running thing. 

I substituted the bike to build up my endurance to be able to last the 3.1 miles. Twice a week I did “long runs”, 20-40 minutes on the bike. The other two days I did speed work, usually intervals, to maintain my strength and power. Three days a week, I lifted, opting for full body routines. (Email me for the workouts.) 

Courtesty : Monteleone Partners
The pacing was a little easier to manage. I simply asked a couple of my running clients to pace me. The biggest challenge was navigating the gridlock at the beginning of the race. Thanks again to Frank and Kathleen (on right, pre-race) for pacing me. I apologize for slowing you guys down. 

In hindsight, the breathing fiasco makes for some hilarity. Despite knowing proper breathing mechanics, I predictably reverted to my prior breathing habits. Also quite predictably, I was cramping 400 meters in. 

Quitting was not an option, and I was stubbornly prepared to run with a cramp for some 2.5 miles. Then I remembered what legendary running coach Dr. Joe Vigil said at the Running Summit two weeks ago about breathing. 

Dr. Vigil said that more often than not, you can breathe your way out of a cramp by focusing on your breaths. Inhalation should be deep, slow, and steady. Exhalation should also be slow and controlled. 

By doing so, you can moderate your heart rate, helping you to relax and calm down. According to NASM, deep rhythmic breathing can also replenish the limited oxygen supply, which is connected to anxiety and muscular tension. The technique worked for me, and my cramp soon disappeared.

Now that I have this race under my belt, I am excited for the next one (October 7, Fit For All 5K) I am going to tweak my training to increase my speed (goal is sub 25:00) Still, I am going to keep the running out of it. 

WHY no running, you ask?

Excellent question, and the answer is primarily contrariness. Traditional thought is that you have to run to be effective at running and to improve your times. To be a world class runner, perhaps this axiom holds true. 

However, most people can drastically improve their times by increasing strength and removing any biomechanical ineffiencies that might arise by implementing a well thought out training program. Such a program addresses the energy system and muscular needs of the sport / event to be performed. 

You can call me crazy for this training philosophy, but I believe in the science behind this theory. And in 2013, you’ll have to call me something else.

A sub 18 minute 5K runner!

1 comment: