The Signs of Spring Are Upon Us!
Unless it’s my imagination (which can be *very* active), this has been one of the weirdest winters lately, with longer, protracted cold spells interspersed with warmer-than-usual spells. The signs of spring are all around, though – from that very familiar smell in the air some mornings, to the daffodils in the front flower bed that are approaching a foot tall, to all the trees surrounding our house beginning to bud. There are other familiar signs of spring in the air as well.
After a long, dark, dreary dry spell, people are beginning to emerge from their winter bunkers and get outside more. That, in turn, brings them to Metro Run & Walk to update their shoes, clothes and other gear.
Four Most Common Questions
The four most common questions I get revolve around my customers’ plans for upcoming events, often a first foray into a distance or event never before done: one of the breast cancer walks or a 5K, 10K, 10 miler, half-marathon, or marathon.
- “Do I need new shoes (generally or for my upcoming event)?”
- “I’ve been reading a lot lately about the “new” minimalist running – is it for me?
- “What should my goals be?”
- “What final preparations should I be making?”
The answers to most of these questions revolve around the tried and true mantra, “Don’t Do Anything New on Race Day!”
“How do I know if I need new shoes?”
This question comes up all year around, not just in the face of an upcoming event. Unfortunately, there’s no built in “wear indicator” on the shoes as there is on your car’s tires. My usual answer when asked this question is a playful “If you’re asking if you need new shoes, you probably do!” A more objective measure is to determine whether your shoes have been worn for the accepted “industry standard” of 300-500 miles (400-600 for a “premium” shoe) of what I call “mileage based activities,” walking or running, or 100 hours of weight bearing gym wear. Those of you who are svelte and fleet of feet should get towards the high end, while heavy plodders like myself will get towards the low end. See: http://aapsm.org/replace_shoes.html and http://www.therunnersguide.com/howlongrunningshoeslast/Another measure that works for some of us is to pay attention to how we feel after our workouts – particularly the mornings after. If a few unfamiliar aches and pains are present (particularly in our knees, although feet, ankles, hips, and the lower back may also announce their grumpiness) that can’t be explained by an extra hard workout or something like a newly-introduced set of hill repeats or speedwork on the track, it may be time.
The most common measure you’ve probably seen us do in the store is to take the toe of the shoe in one hand, the heel in the other and try to fold and twist the shoe. If it can relatively easily be twisted and folded, it invariably is worn out.If you do need a new pair, DON’T buy them right before your event. My advice has always been to buy the shoes enough in advance to do 3-4 shorter workouts, and at least one longer workout. For example, for a marathon, I’d probably do 3-4 of my weekday 5-8 mile runs, and 1-2 of my longer final training runs of 13 miles or longer. This will enable you to determine that the shoes will perform properly, and that there are no construction issues (a seam that’s been improperly sewn or glued, for example) that might literally rub you raw during your event.
“Is minimalism for me?”
The minimalist approach is still generating controversy, and for some reason, some of my customers who are getting ready to do an early spring race feel the need to venture into minimalism for their race. While there are a handful of folks for whom this probably wouldn’t be an issue, for the vast majority of us, cutting over to minimalism requires a period of deliberate, focused, mindful training. These last few weeks or months before your first event of the year are NOT the time to tackle a radical new approach to running. My advice is to do your event in your current shoes.
In the interim, go to: http://www.goodformrunning.com/. If the concept intrigues you, go to our website and register for an upcoming free Good Form clinic, held generally once a month, 8-10AM on a Saturday morning. http://www.metrorunwalkspringfield.com/training/index. Once familiar with the technique, and with adequate, appropriate time to train, you can “minimalize” your next event.
The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine has a few good articles related to this:
A Closer Look At Minimalist Running Shoes (PDF)
Published in Podiatry Today, September 2012
AAPSM Barefoot Running Position Statement
Advising Your Patients About Barefoot Running (PDF)
Published in Podiatry Management Magazine, 2010-2011
“Are my goals realistic?”
Goals are so uniquely individual it’s difficult to offer an opinion. For example, when I did my first Ironman race, my goal was to (1) finish, (2) finish with dignity, (3) finish on my own two fee, and (4) avoid the medical tent.It took me 14+ hours, but I met all my goals and was elated. From that experience, I took “lessons learned,” and was able to improve on that time in future events. Obviously, goals for shorter events can be modified appropriately, but I think it’s imperative to recognize one’s limitations and work within them and appropriately train towards your goals.
We’re all an experiment of one.
“My race is coming up soon. What should I be doing now?”
Your preparations for your upcoming event can be broken down into three areas: logistics, physical preparation, and mental preparation. Logistics is a very straightforward application of the “nothing new on race day” rule – everything you wear, everything you eat, and everything you drink on race day should be *very* familiar to you. This is NOT the time to wear a brand new pair of shoes, try that new singlet, shorts, or socks, or sport that new cap. Everything you wear should be something you’ve worn numerous times in training.
Similarly, you don’t want to try that new energy gel you’ve heard so much about but haven’t trained with. You simply don’t want to find out five minutes after you’ve taken it that your tummy doesn’t like it, and you find yourself off to the side of the road getting rid of it in a most embarrassing, disgusting manner. Find out what nutritional items (gels, hydration beverage, etc.) are being served on the course and train with them, if at all possible or pack your own.
Physical preparation is pretty much self-explanatory. You need to put the time and miles “into the bank,” so that when race day comes, they’re there for you to withdraw. And, while the conventional wisdom is that you need only run about 3/4 or so of the race distance in training, some of us need to “over train.” For me, for example, it means I have to have run at least the race distance plus an extra mile in training – this is simply training the most critical muscle, the one between my ears! You need to determine what’s appropriate for you.
That last item is part of the very critical aspect of mental preparation. I know a woman who trained for an Ironman race and went into it completely, fully prepared – she thought. She’d banked the swim, bike, and run miles; had her hydration and nutrition down; had prepared for weather and equipment anomalies. She was good to go. She had a great swim and bike, and totally fell apart on the run. Why?
It turns out she’d only trained with a group, and during the times when the training got tough, the group rallied around and supported each other. However, about halfway into the marathon, nearly 13 hours into the race, she found herself on the run course, alone and in the dark, and discovered the hard way that the muscle between her ears hadn’t been properly trained. Her “nothing new on race day” violation was having never trained alone.
Good luck. Have a great race, and come back and tell us all the glorious “war stories!”
- What comes first- The shoe or the form? (runnersworldchadwellheath.wordpress.com)
- The Unknown…. (njmarathon.wordpress.com)
- Austin Sports Medicine: Tips for Preparing for a Race from Medicine in Motion (prweb.com)
- Well: When to Retire a Running Shoe (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Get running results the old-fashioned way: HARD WORK. (runberryrun.com)
- Rekindling the Flame / What they DON’T tell you about Marathoning (thecurvyroadrunner.wordpress.com)
- Austin Sports Medicine: Race Day Tips from Medicine in Motion (prweb.com)