I have never been a big fan of the treadmill. This is not just some irrational fear of taking a single wrong step and being thrown backwards, across the gym, into a group of innocent bystanders like a high speed projectile, although that could happen, right? Instead its a matter of never feeling fully comfortable on a treadmill. Every time I step up and hit the green “Start” button I feel like I am not a very good runner. I get overheated too quickly. I never run as fast as I do outside. I get bored staring at my own reflection for 45 minutes. It’s just not a great experience, but beyond the dislike, its just not as good of a training tool as running out in the wild.
To discuss the subject of the interminable hamster wheel, I sat down with author and fitness coach Luke Sniewski to discuss the subject for the Ojio Sport Fitbusters video series.
While the treadmill certainly has a place in any training regimen, for me, nothing beats the open road. So, put on some shiny and reflective clothes, look both ways before you cross the street, and get out there and feel the sun on your back and the wind on your face. Besides, most treadmills don’t hand out medals when you finish!
Whether you are traveling for work or fortunate enough to be on vacation, being away from home can put a damper on your training. Being in a strange room in a strange city can throw off even the most committed runners. For someone used to training on a consistent schedule and relying on a predefined set of tools, travel can make training difficult, especially if you are like me and hate the treadmill. After completing a couple of trips recently, I thought I would put together a couple of do’s and don’ts for the runner on the road.
Running on Vacation
This is probably the easier trip to plan for. First of all, hopefully your vacation plans are taking you somewhere scenic and temperate, the kind of place where you want to go for a run. That was my experience recently on a trip to Hawaii. Who wouldn’t want to run along the beach at sunrise in K’anapali? I simply packed a couple sets of running clothes, my sun glasses, and my Garmin watch. In this case I chose to leave the headphones behind because I wanted to be able to hear the wind and the surf and the birds. I also left behind any other gear that I normally have for longer runs, because my training didn’t call for anything over 5 miles.
A morning run in paradise
I didn’t do any advanced research on places to run because I assumed that it would be obvious. Our first morning in the hotel we walked down to the beach and saw numerous runners and walkers making their way up and down the K’anapali Beach Path. From there I logged on to the route creator at Map My Run to see just how far a run up and down the beach path would take me. I plotted out a course that would get me the mileage I needed and would have me finishing up at the entrance to Duke’s Beach House for fresh papaya-orange juice and some breakfast. Getting in a run or two during vacation, especially a vacation like this, is pretty straightforward, much different from the experience when traveling for work.
Last weekend I stepped to the starting line of a marathon for he first time in a few years. My recent absence had not been a choice, but rather the result of an injury that refused to heal. I have been physically active and healthy my whole life, but my Achilles’ heel turned out to be my right ankle. After injuring it at the end of a half marathon two and a half years ago, it had taken me longer than I ever expected to get back to this point.
Ready to get started!
At 6 am, the starting gun sounded and the people much faster than myself raced out of the corral. The sky was still dark and layered with thick clouds and the air was cool and a little humid. Other than the humidity, the conditions were ideal. Only about 5,000 runners actually lined up for the full marathon, an amount that makes for smooth running and limited congestion. I crossed the starting line at 6:03 am with my head down and my music on, looking to find my rhythm and get lost in the sea of footsteps. From the beginning of the race, I never quite felt right. My legs were heavy and my feet felt like bricks. My stride was awkward and my pacing was inconsistent. Even when you know what you are doing, have a plan, and know how to execute it things can go wrong.
I recently cut a juice fast short by a day or so in order to make sure I was ready to continue my marathon training, but I knew that three regular meals was hardly enough food to fuel a 17 mile run. Given this fact, I decided to turn my regularly scheduled training run into an experiment in carb depletion, and ultimately a lesson in carbo-loading.
Getting by with a little help from some friends
Carb depletion is what happens when your body runs out of the glycogen it needs to convert into energy. Normally when this happens, a runner is said to be bonking. Bonking is the point at which your body simply refuses to work because it does not have the necessary fuel to operate properly. The visual of bonking can be pretty disturbing, an athlete whose arms and legs refuse to respond properly to the brain’s commands, instead stutter and flail as he or she struggles even to remain standing. This is something that all athletes want to avoid for obvious reasons, but for me, I was curious just how far I could get in a carb depleted state.
One of the hardest parts about training is getting and staying motivated. The trick for each of us is to identify what motivates us individually. Some run for charity, some to prove something to themselves, others to collect racing shirts and medals. Since no two people are the same, I am simply going to explain some of the things that motivate me, and maybe some of them will resonate with you.
The number one motivator for me is Race Day! Usually, I look out on the local event schedule and find a race that I want to run and I mark my calendar. I start to train for a few weeks to make sure that everything is in working order, then I register for the race and spend my money. At that point, I am committed. There is no backing out now. All of my training from that point forward is focused on Race Day.
The Science is in. Running is officially good for you.
For people who run, even just a little bit, I’m sure that the general consensus is that running is a healthy activity. Ask a runner to be more specific and you might get an answer like it burns calories, or its good for your heart, or something more generic, but specifics about the long-term health benefits of running are few and far between.
For that very reason a group of researchers set out to find out if running regularly really did impart long term health benefits. Their results were published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which is due out on August 5th. The head line is an eye catching one: Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk.