Saturday, November 24, 2007

Exercise-Specific Training is Important

This article was written by Gina Kolata and appeared in Thursday's NY Times. It is an interesting article that I believe we can all learn from.

Personal Best
Short Layoff, Long Comeback
WHEN Helen Betancourt, an assistant coach at Princeton, was preparing
for the World Championships in rowing in 1998, she suffered an overuse
injury: stress fractures of her ribs. She competed anyway, but then had
to take five months off. Like most athletes, she did her best to maintain her fitness, spending hours cycling. Finally, she returned to her sport.
“I lost half my strength,” she said. And rowing just felt weird.
“It was like I had stepped off another planet.” Yet a couple of months later, much faster than it takes to get that strong to begin with, Ms. Betancourt felt like her old self on the water. Four months of rowing and she was in top form.
It shows, exercise physiologists say, that training is exquisitely
specific: you can acquire and maintain cardiovascular fitness with many
activities, but if you want to keep your ability to row, or run, or swim,
you have to do that exact activity. It also shows, they say, that people who work out sporadically, running on weekends, for instance, will never reach their potential. This is a time of year when many people who exercised religiously for
months cannot maintain their exercise schedules because they are
traveling, or they have a severe cold, or simply because they are celebrating
holidays with family. That may not matter if you do not want to compete, and there is no reason why everyone who works out would want to race. But if competition or
a new personal record is your goal, exercise physiologists have some
lessons to impart. Training has a pronounced effect on the heart, says Matthew Hickey, the director of a human performance laboratory at Colorado State
University. Athletes develop a lower resting heart rate, their hearts beat
slower during exercise, and their hearts are larger than they were before
training began. They also have a greater blood plasma volume, which allows the heart to pump more blood with each beat. One of the first and most noticeable
effects of detraining is that that plasma volume is lost. “It’s water in your plasma,” said Joseph Houmard, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at East Carolina State University. “You just lose it. There’s no reason to keep it.”
Plasma water is lost amazingly fast, said Dr. Paul Thompson, a marathon
runner and cardiologist at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. “We once paid distance runners $10 a day not to run,” Dr. Thompson recalled. “They spent a lot of time in the men’s room urinating.” Two days into their running fast, he said, the men lost a little more than two pounds from water weight as their plasma volume fell 8
percent. But if runners keep running, even if they cover many fewer miles than
at their peak, they can maintain their plasma volume, Dr. Thompson said.
When athletes stop training, the heart also pumps less blood to their
muscles with each beat. Both changes are so pronounced, says Edward
Coyle, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas, Austin, that
within three months of detraining, athletes are no different in these
measures than people who had been sedentary all their lives. But athletes, like Ms. Betancourt who do alternative activities still find that they lose a lot of conditioning. It makes sense, Dr. Coyle said, because each activity trains specific
muscles and the muscles change biochemically as a result. He compares bicycling and running: Fast runners propel themselves forward, using their calves and ankles. With bicycling, the ankles barely move and the calves play little role. Instead, the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh power the bike. Even exercises that seem similar are rarely similar enough, Dr. Coyle added. Some injured runners run in a pool, wearing a vest. That, Dr. Coyle said, is not the same as running on land. In fact, it is more like bicycling because it uses the quadriceps muscles to push against the water. Training is especially challenging for people who want to compete in more than one sport, like triathletes, and have to divide their training time among different activities, exercise physiologists say. It’s also hard for people who reduce their exercise time because they are traveling or busy at work. When training time is limited, Dr. Coyle said, “you have to decide where you will get the biggest performance bang for the hour you spend.” The key, he found in his research, is to substitute intensity of effort for time. “A runner who’s been running doesn’t need much time to maintain his performance,” Dr. Coyle said. “But the training needs to be almost like racing.” Dr. Rafael Escandon, a medical researcher in San Francisco, did it all wrong this summer when he trained for a September triathlon in CancĂșn,
Mexico. Dr. Escandon said he was a natural runner who completed 43 marathons. But he spent most of the summer cycling. When he ran, he did not push himself and he averaged at most 15 miles a week. He normally runs a half marathon in about 90 minutes. When race day came, Dr. Escandon did great in the swimming and bicycling segments, even averaging almost 25 miles an hour when he was riding. But running was another story. He ran the half marathon segment in 2 hours 17 minutes, “my worst ever, by far, far, far under any conditions,” he said. “I completely fell apart.” But the good news is that it takes much less time to regain fitness for a specific sport than it did to become fit in the first place. Even exercise physiologists are surprised at how quickly the body can readapt when training resumes. Almost immediately, blood volume goes up, heartbeats become more powerful, and muscle mitochondria come back. Of course, researchers say, individuals respond differently and young people may bounce back faster than older athletes. But, they say, speed and strength and endurance do return, even in deconditioned athletes, some of whose lab test results look like those of a sedentary person. Part of the reason, researchers say, is that training may elicit lasting effects that are very hard to measure, like changes in nerve-firing patterns and blood vessels. Dr. Coyle, who has measured muscle mitochondria, said that even though muscles lose mitochondria when athletes stop training, they retain more of them than are found in muscles of a person who has always been sedentary. But another reason may be that athletes, unlike most inactive people, know how to train and how to push themselves. Dr. Michael Joyner, an exercise researcher at the Mayo Clinic, saw the effects of detraining and retraining firsthand. He was a young man at the time (he’s now 49), a college athlete, and had been training continuously for several years, running an average of 80 miles a week. “It was all very macho and I had a bunch of buddies to run with,” Dr. Joyner said. “Someone was always prepared to pick up the pace.” Then he agreed to be a subject in one of Dr. Coyle’s deconditioning studies, which required him to stop running entirely for 12 weeks. When he started running again, Dr. Joyner could hardly believe it. Running was so hard, he was so slow, he became tired so fast. But he
persevered, running 30 miles a week for the first couple of weeks and then increasing his mileage. “I just sort of got back with the group and started pushing it,” he
said. Which, of course, is the key. “A lot of coming back is knowing how to read your body and how to manage your suffering,” Dr. Joyner said. But there are real rewards. “I was back to normal again in about a month,” Dr. Joyner said.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Secret To Success

David Bursler, an ultrarunner from Delaware shared this on the Ultralist. Many of you may have read it, but it is worth repeating.

In a casual conversation I had today with a new sales rep servicing
my area of responsibility I made mention of the fact that I run. She
responded by saying "I would like to do that but I can't". I looked her
straight in the eye and without hesitation I said you only can't
because you believe you can't. I repeated the exact words she used in
response to my comment about my running habits and afterwards she seemed
flustered or maybe a better word would be amazed. She immediately
realized that she was putting limits on what she could and could not do. She
walked away after a short 10 minute conversation with me saying she
felt inspired. Mind you I never once went into detail about my history as
a runner but instead focused on her own words she used to describe her
inability to run. The only thing I did was to help her to understand
that she can escape the narrow world she lives in by believing in herself. I have a secret as to how I am able to run but it's a secret that I am willing to reveal. Believe in yourself and never allow doubt to interrupt those feelings of belief. When you look in the mirror each day focus on the pretty smile instead of the big zit that is on your nose. Positive thoughts lead to a positive
outcome. Visualize the best and you will receive the best. It has worked
for me in as a runner and it is a work in progress for me in life but I
can assure you it works everywhere and in every aspect of your life.

"If you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right!" Henry Ford

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Today is the day to give thanks for everything in our lives. I hope you all have a wonderful day filled with lots of food and good cheer.

No run for me today. I hate the thought of eating a bunch of food and then just sitting there letting it ferment. Oh, well, whats a girl to do? Don't ruin tomorrows run by eating lots of junk. Everything in moderation, right?

For all of you guys running the Quad this Saturday, good luck! I wish I was going to be out there too. Have a happy day!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Butt Crack of Dawn

This morning was another day of getting up at the butt crack of dawn, and running with friends. We ran on the Quad Dipsea trail and enjoyed every minute of it. Suzanna, Florencia, Jeff and myself started out, with Suz and I taking a different route on the way back. What a great way to spend a Friday morning. A 20 miler before lunch. Yes!!

On a sad note, my Uncle Don passed away this morning. I am so thankful that he is out of pain and that he can finally be at peace. He had been in horrible pain with Cancer for a long time. He was my favorite Uncle and I will miss him very much. I will never forget him.

Western States 100 training advice from a Pro

Here is some advice Andy Jones-Wilkins gave on the ultra list about training for Western States. He obviously knows what you need to do as he finished 4th last year!

With just two weeks before the lottery, I know that everyone that entered is anxiously awaiting for December 1st when maybe, just maybe, our name will be selected. Don't get too excited as there are 1352 entrants and a mere 16% chance of getting selected. Wow, isn't that a total bummer? Oh well, 16% of us will get selected!

1. Get on the course as many times as you can. I know everybody says
this but it is absolutely true. The main reason to do this is that it
eliminates variables. For example if you have run from Dusty Corners
Foresthill 6 times in training and you have done it in a somewhat
predictable time frame you should be able to do that on race day as
Quite honestly, I have eight intermediate splits between Last Chance
Devil's Thumb (that's a split every 1/2 mile). Breaking the course
into manageable, familiar chunks is critically important physically and

2. Train for the pain you will feel late in the race. If you can do
speedwork, hill repeats and back to back long runs you will mimic the
of those last 20 miles. Certainly, you need to build up to this stuff
it sounds like you are suitably obsessed enough to do this.

3. Have a nutrition plan and stick to it. I can almost guarantee you
that you will not want to eat solid food at Green Gate, perhaps not
Foresthill. However, you need a plan that you know works. Carbs,
electrolytes and fluids. Get that figured out and stick to it no
what. Again, it removes a variable. When my crew meets me they simply
hand me the food I am supposed to eat, no questions, discussion, or
debate. And, I eat it.

4. Trash your feet and quads in training. Start a run by dunking your
feet in cold water and running through a dusty portion of trail. Then
your 25 miler. In fact, why not practice at the Quad later this month?

It will help. Also, find a longish downhill, preferably paved or
yet even concrete, and do downhill repeats once a week for four months
before the race. Sounds brutal but it works.

Thanks, Andy for the great training advice!! Now get out there and start training!

Friday, November 9, 2007

These animals are what made our 28 mile run at Pt.Reyes National Seashore so incredible. We saw two large herds of Tule Elk, Deer, and a Coyote. The Elk were amazing! They were big as Horses and ran by us with a ROAR of their footsteps. There are approximately 400 Tule Elk living there. There is also an abundance of bird life feeding near the tideline.

Pt.Reyes is a great place to run. We ran through fern covered trails and climbed open single track trails through meadows and up over forested ridges. We ran on the beach and saw fresh Mountain Lion tracks. It is so remote there that you get the feeling that there are many animals watching you. Pt.Reyes National Seashore covers 70,000 acres in Marin County, California.

That run just kicked my royal booty!! It was a great run but I think I lost my sense of humor after about 20 miles. The last 8 miles were a complete and total butt kicking. Suzanna, Jeff, and Tamara were not fazed by our run, but I was screaming for my Mama for several miles. Paul joined us for several miles at the start but had to turn off early due to more IMPORTANT things he had to do. I hope you all had a great day today. I sure did.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Skull and Feathers....Oh My!!

Yesterday Karen and I went on a hike up in Sugarloaf. Neither of us were feeling real energetic and so a hike sounded perfect. It was a beautiful day and it was so nice to see the blue sky. I had worked all day in the Hospital and never got to an area where I could see how the weather was. I was so surprised at how beautiful it was.

As most of you know, I just love finding bones. We found an area that looked like it was a perfect place to see a Mountain Lion. That area is known for cats and we see their prints often. We saw a lot of scat and found a large pile of turkey feathers and a part eaten leg of a big Turkey. Within a couple of yards of that kill, we found a pile of deer bones. It looked like it hadn't been dead for very long. Something large had enjoyed a meal of it. I quickly grabbed the skull and jaw bones and off we went to conclude our hike. I am excited to add another skull to my collection. Yeah, I know I'm weird. Duh!

Tomorrow I am meeting some friends at Pt. Reyes for a 25 mile run. I need to leave my house at 4:45 in order to get there on time. Yikes! I am looking forward to running with my running buds and enjoying a few hours of socializing. Have a wonderful Friday. TGIF tomorrow!!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Planning ahead for racing

I had a great weekend! The weather was just beautiful and it was warm and it certainly didn't feel like November!! The weekend started on Friday with a great run with Suzanna and Jeff. We did a lot of hill climbing and the sun felt so good on our backs. On Saturday, Karen and I were joined with Bob and Matt and we again ran in our favorite park called Sugarloaf. We saw a large red Fox running up the mountain and enjoyed watching him lope along through the rocks and shrubs. On Sunday, Karen and Bill and I ran at Mt. Tam. We ran 22 miles and the weather was just incredible. Stinson Beach was warm and people covered the sandy beach. It wasn't a fast run but certainly a run that was just what the Doctor ordered. It was "time on my feet", and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day. I am feeling stronger now and am excited to be getting back my strength.

November is a great time for looking ahead and checking out what races might be nice to run. Last year I was plagued with so many problems and raced very little. I would like to race more in 2008. It's fun to think about the adventures that are out there. I sent in my entry for WS 100 this morning. It is exciting to think that there is a possible chance of getting in. If I don't get in, I will pace someone or volunteer there, as I can't imagine not being part of that race in some capacity. Have any of you looked ahead and started to make some tentative racing plans? Soon the weather will be cold and the days shorter. Making some plans now will help keep us motivated to train through the winter. Good luck with your racing plans......