June 29, 2014

More of the same.

There are only so many ways one can say "I'm still not running", and I've decidedly run out. I can't say things aren't getting better. But if they are, it's at an imperceptible pace. Stuck on 90% for weeks now. Maybe could do something like running. But not much. And not really.

It is what it is though, yeah? Risk acknowledged, accepted, and now being paid off.

A friend told me I was getting old, or at least older, too old perhaps to just hammer as I've always done, and trust my body to put itself back together.

But fuck. 26? That can't be it.

May take another trip to the doc. He did advise I do so, if things weren't back to normal in a couple of weeks. That couple of weeks will be past, come this Tuesday, and I'd say we're decidedly sub normal.

The rush, if it can be called that, has nothing at all to do with racing, and everything to do with general angst, anxiety, and absence. I want to run again and not doing so is grating. I'll be going to Colorado with the folks in a month, and if I'm reduced to exclusively walking, well, I shouldn't bitch, and I might not, because I don't want to ruin things for them, but in my head there will be bitching aplenty.

Hiking is a delicious supplement to running but as a main course it leaves me quite ravenous.

As ever, we'll see. This all sounds a bit negative, I realize. And it kind of is. But things take time. I get that. Even if I don't want it.

June 24, 2014

Things I have done and am not doing.

Our office carpet is being replaced, and the adhesive which was under it ground away with some industrial... thing. Like sandpaper, only it spins, and is attached to a three foot tall engine. The refuse is yellow and fine. It smells noxious and as if it could, if ingested in sufficient quantities, fuck you up good, and then very bad.

I mentioned this to coworkers and the discussion of course diverted to drug use. 26 now, haven't touched alcohol in... probably about three years? Never tried anything else.

As ever when this comes up (I tend to prefer it not to), questions arise. So, you don't drink at all? Seriously never smoked once?

Never thought of it like that. Never said never. But never said yes either, and at this point, it seems very unlikely that I will.

I don't consider this a good thing, bad thing, or anything at all beyond the sum of my decisions to this point.

I ran a mile on Monday, and while the result wasn't profound pain, it was enough soreness to know that I'm not "back". It's odd, this. I always imagined I'd push myself far beyond my doctor's wishes, and yet here I am, granted permission to run, and not running.

Because it hurts? Because it hurts. Simple enough. Listen to your body, says everyone in the fitness world. What that means, of course, is not just that we hear it, but that we listen. So I'm listening.

But still, fuck you, fibula. I'm not running. I like running. I skipped a metal show I'd been looking forward to for months because I simply can't afford to get stomped in the leg, and I likewise cannot abide standing in the back. Half the fun of such events is the suffocating violence.

June 23, 2014

The Old Dog

Chloe is 12 years old, a pale yellow lab. Yellow in name, and perhaps once was, but more properly now she is white. Her breath is loud and I hear it most nights when I go to sleep, as she fancies the floor near my bed as her resting place.

She will arrive twice a day, around 4 and 11. (The first corresponds to my coming home from work, and laying down for a moment's respite; the latter corresponds with my bedtime.) Being tall enough, she will place her head on the side of my bed and pant until I acknowledge that she has arrived with a moment's petting. Soon after she is asleep, splayed out on the floor. Her breath is quieter then but only just.

When she rises it is always with a shudder, then unsure steps carry her forward, arthritic joints yielding to age and the decay that must come. In her breath, though laboured, I hear what I assume to be pleasure. She walks about often and enthusiastically, even running and jumping at times (though not often do these things end gracefully). She appears happy with things, happy to see me, and to share my sleeping place. I too am pleased with the arrangement, and honestly pleased moments before, as I can hear her panting from the end of the hallway. Approaching, and then, always polite, asking if she can stay. (She won't sleep in my room if I'm not there.)

We can't speak, of course. I can't ask her how much her joints hurt, if at all, or how laboured her breathing truly is. I know she seems pleased. That her face seems to appear a doggish smile. (It should be noted that studies seem to indicate that humans and dogs actually recognize these things quite accurately, based on brain scan data.) But that seeming, it must be acknowledged, is filtered through my biases. Certainly we have more tangible evidence than that. The vet says she is healthy, and that, perhaps, is the best we can do.

I say we, because despite this apparent attachment, she isn't my dog, but my roommates' from childhood. These are concerns that they share, as I suppose any worthy pet owner would. She is old, and the questions that must be asked are asked. You know them.

But there again the concept of ownership, of belonging. In the same way one might own a chair, a table, a car. People can like these things, of course. I've heard tell that people can love them, and I won't say otherwise or offer judgment on that sentiment.

But I am uncomfortable with the idea that the life of a sentient being can be equated with these things in any meaningful way. Whether her daily discomfort is negligible or severe, she feels. A car cannot experience pain, or the fear of reconciling it with increasing age. Dogs, we're told, don't grasp mortality in the same ways that we do. And that seems likely enough. Still, she experiences a host of things, not in the same way that you or I do necessarily, but in a way that is no less valuable. While we, as humans, understandably sympathise best with other like creatures (though often we're deplorable at that), there must be some imperative to attempt a similar connection with, at the very least, the creatures we've legally claimed ownership of. They "belong" to us, a phrasing I don't love. But with that ownership must come a responsibility, to do the best we can for them.

So, I don't know. I'm also very uncomfortable with broad sweeping statements on morality and ethical obligations, on claiming I have answers regarding how anyone other than myself should behave. It's a hard thing to get right, life, for all of us. I can't say I've got it figured out in total. But this? This seems simple enough. Do your best for the animals you've brought into your home to share time and space with. It really is the least we can do.

June 18, 2014

I still didn't run, but maybe soon, really this time.

I did not run again today, which is not news. I know this because I originally went to the University of Kansas' esteemed journalism school, where I was taught that a thing merely happening - or not happening, as it were - is not news.

Of course, I say "originally" because I got the fuck out of there, and polished off my academic life in the English department, where I was free to write basically whatever I wanted. When I turned a 300 word stock news story into a 5,000 word short story, filled with melodramatic noir cliches, and ultimately, I think, the explosion of a bank, it appeared time to go. 

So when I say this is not news, you will know that I mean it earnestly, but also that I do not care even a little bit. 

In any case, I did not run, because although the healing process is coming along nicely, the "cessation of pain process" is less far along. A bit irritating, that, to know that I probably could run, but, y'know, ouch. I tell myself alternately that I'm being a wimp, and then that this is entirely reasonable. 

Were it not 100 degrees out, and were the air not dense with the rancid miasma we here know as the region's humidity, I would perhaps be more inclined to push things. But perhaps not. 

While I'm somewhat in a hurry to run again, I don't feel any urgent need to return to race readiness. It's the cruising of easy miles, trotting along at something between 7 and 8, that I miss. Hell, 9s are cool too, if I'm feeling sluggish. Odd to say, I miss running easy, even if that means running fucking slow. Should probably, y'know, do some strides or hill sprints or some shit too, but whatever. 

I do have a racing singlet waiting for me at the local running store, which I will theoretically wear when I get myself contorted into some kind of decent shape, such that I wouldn't feel totally fraudulent wearing it. Would a 1:22 half be good enough? Eh. 13 miles seems awfully far, at the moment. How the hell did I ever run 50?

On other gear: Shoes? Shoes are expensive, and I have a tortured infatuation with them, a love that has thus far gone unrequited. No shoe has loved me back. But, I'll need something for my hobbyjoggering. While I don't expect to go full HOKA (though the Clifton and Huaka are intriguing), something that is not basically a tattered nylon memory of a shoe would be a good idea. Skimpy shoes taught me how to run, and frankly, showed me that I could. So I'm not totally abandoning my low drop preferences. But there comes a point where pragmatism must replace idealism. Breaking bones is that point. Concrete hurts. I want some fucking foam. Not, like, too much. Not so much. I want, I guess, the just right oatmeal, after spending years proving I could eat the absurdly hot bowl.

Other things: World Cup! Coffee! Melons! Dogs!

All of these things are great. Most of my favorite people are dogs. 

June 17, 2014

Things break, things mend.

X-ray today. My last one, probably. Free to begin LIGHT JOGGING this week, then easy running, then something like actual training in a couple weeks.

Enough time to defend my trail marathon title in September? Probably. Not sure though. Not sure that I care too much at the moment, in any case. Just happy to be healing, quite quickly, quite evidently.

Looking at the pictures, and comparing. There were two cracks three weeks ago. Now there are none. Instead is a hazy callus of new bone tissue, a natural cast.

I'd say something about the body being amazing, but won't, only because you know these things already, and my words would add nothing.

Leaving the office, smiling, near giddy. Not that I expected anything different than the news I received. But even still, this had been bothering me. What's more, it had been bothering me that it had been bothering me.

Some things I've read about today:

  • Over 50 people have been killed at World Cup viewing parties in Kenya in the last two days. 
  • As many as 15 are believed dead in a suicide bombing in Nigeria at a viewing. Can't say, because the AP just tweeted the story.
  • Syrian snipers are shooting children, just because. 
  • Several high profile universities refused to investigate rape charges against star athletes. At least one victim killed herself.

Everywhere murder, rape, poaching, death, destruction, etc.

Sorry for mentioning that. You know it already. And I do, too. But we're callused, a little bit, aren't we? I read, because I think it matters. You do too. But then I wonder. Because we're told that knowledge is power, but what is there to do, really? To know of such horrors, every day, does nothing to prevent them. We're bombarded with "awareness", from every angle, at all times.

And perhaps - although there's no x-ray to show it - we develop calluses where these things wound us, to all of this, until there's nothing but callus. The response can just about only be nihilism, vindictiveness, or indulgence in endlessly inane bullshit.

But again, sorry for that. You don't need it. And I don't, either. In any case, this was never meant to be a socio political rant on the futility of human existence, the persistence of suffering, or whatever.

It was meant to be - and still is, I hope - an acknowledgment that things were never bad, for me. And that they certainly aren't now. I have no new ideas on how to fix the world. But I deal better with its shit when I can run every day.

June 12, 2014

Keeping Score

Say one thing about running, say that it's fair.

Well, that racing is. Usually. Mostly.

And in that way, running is largely unique among sports. (Though admittedly, not solely. Swimming, cycling, tri, rowing, the field events, and powerlifting come to mind. Perhaps a few others.)

Controversy already at day one, game one of the World Cup. Brazil beat Croatia, as expected. But likely would not have done so were it not for a horrendous penalty given on a flagrant dive.

Diving is a thing in soccer. Far too big a thing. This is known, and has been known for some time. But efforts to diminish its role have thus far proven ineffective.

And why shouldn't players continue? When it works, as it often does, your team gains a tremendous advantage. When it doesn't, you're virtually never penalized. No risk, very high reward. The calculus is easy.

And so twitter is aflame with indignation, citing the given penalty, and a disallowed Croatia goal as proof of referee bias. The fix was in. Brazil was always going to win. Home crowd. Host nation. Couldn't be otherwise.

Simply, this is not a thing in running. Not really. When Farah doubles in London, there can be no real argument that he wasn't a deserving winner. Check the clock. Fastest wins. The simplest scoring metric there is.

He did not win because Olympic officials felt the need to deliver a  hero to London, and no one can really say so. They can say that he enjoys certain training advantages over his African competitors, or allege doping. And some will. But the race is the race. A naked spectacle, free from outside interference.

It is, to embrace the banality, what it is. And what it is, in this case, is part of the core appeal of running. In a world growing increasingly disjointed, artificial, abstract, it's something concrete. An 18 minute 5k might be good, bad, average, whatever, depending on who you are. But if that's what you ran, that's what you ran.

There is profundity in that simplicity.

June 11, 2014

On min, on max.

Reading as always, about training, shoes, nutrition, etc. Complicating things too much, probably.

Telling myself that minimalism, properly understood, ought to represent the least optimal, not least possible, solution.

Same with maximalism. Or any other word representing anything too terribly extreme. 

Seek the effective dose. Stop breaking bones. 

This should not be a high bar, but I'm eyeing it, not quite ready to jump. 

June 10, 2014

What I'm up to.

Worth saying, lest my last few posts have given you the opposite impression, is that I'm feeling pretty good about things. I'd rather be running, of course. But any perspective at all yields the inevitable conclusion that life is pretty good despite that. I have pants, dogs to pet, food to eat, books to read. Somewhere in there is the recipe for my happy life.

Provided I do something daily to sate my exercise appetite, that is. Preferably something hard. And a lot of it. Running is a thing you can do a lot of; and I liked that about it. But even before I ran, I lifted every day for a few years, and elliptical'd most of those days too. (I still believed then that my flat-as-hell feet meant I couldn't run at all. Not quite accurate, as it turns out. But we'll see. Maybe I'm just breaking down after a few years, rather than right away? Can't say it's impossible.) All of that probably set me up to not totally suck at running right away, and established a pretty decent work capacity, which I've since maintained.

All of this is to say that, though I haven't been running, I have done a shit ton of other stuff. This is what I did tonight. It's pretty typical in volume/structure, but as much fun as I've had (for reasons I'll get to) on any non-running workout in a while.
Stationary bike. 17 miles in an hour. 
Erg row. 1000 meters in 4:19.  
Then, 3 sets of: pushups, parallel bar dips, chin ups, goblet squats, med ball twists. 
The main event: Warmup  5 x 5 deadlift starting at 135 lbs, working up to 215. Then, 5 x 3 deadlift at 225 lbs. Then, 1 rep at 235. (This was the fun part. Deadlifts are the greatest lift that ever was, both in terms of whole-body fitness and - to me - enjoyment. Since virtually your entire musculoskeletal system is involved, heart rate spikes after each work set, and your brain bathes in those choicest of chemicals. The hill repeats kind.)
Then, 20 minute cooldown on the elliptical.
Nothing impressive, if you know anything about each respective discipline. Which I do, sadly, because I have access to the internet. And the knowledge of what I used to deadlift.

But I'd be lying if I said any of that bothered me. Frankly, it doesn't. Not even a little. Yeah, my cycling sucks. But I'm not a triathlete. Yeah, my rowing sucks. But I'm 145 lbs, and the erg favors far heavier guys. Also, totally new to the technique. And yeah, my deadlift sucks. But I'm not a powerlifter. And I am, furthermore, 25 lbs below the weight at which I lifted my best.

Most importantly, I'm happy with all of that.

Can I really end a post without something vaguely nihilistic and snarky? I guess.

June 9, 2014

Things can kill you.

Every other week, "science", as portrayed by pop media outlets, collectively determines that running either will or will not kill you.

You could forgive the general public for their confusion. You could forgive them as well for their warnings, meant earnestly, that perhaps you might run less. To save your knees, yes, as always - but now your heart too. You see, every marathon - and certainly every ultra! - is like a miniature heart attack. Irreparable damage is done, and then compounded, when you continue to train hard, and race long. 

Or something like that. 

This is not to dismiss those concerns as trivial, or to suggest that they're wholly false. There certainly does seem to be a point of diminishing returns, at which point running more breaks you down to a degree that exceeds your body's recuperative abilities. And although it often seems the overworked staff writer didn't bother to read the "methods" section (or perhaps anything beyond the abstract) of the study about which they're writing, even a properly nuanced read yields the inevitable conclusion that runners are not invincible.

Alex Hutchinson is the opposite of that (admittedly too harsh stereotype), and probably the best widely read exercise science writer I know of. Although he does write for Runner's World, his review of this issue is fair and comprehensive. Read it here.

Hutchinson notes that many (maybe most) runners who adopt the label train for reasons that - while not explicitly excluding positive health outcomes - do not seek them specifically. Whether aesthetics (which is very difference from health), performance, or simply the "love of the game", many will greatly exceed the 20 miles or so a week he notes as the likely point of optimal dose/response.

I am inclined to smile at that crowd, because I am among it. And I recognize similar traits in other fitness enclaves that share my/our tendencies.

I know people who have recently done the following: Deadlifted 400+ lbs while weighing less than 200; participated in various martial arts tournaments; raced a 100 miles footrace; raced an ironman triathlon; competed in Crossfit Games regionals; completed a Spartan race; completed a 200 mile bike race; biked across Kansas; and it goes on.

I love each of these things, to the extent that someone else cares passionately about them, and devotes themselves thusly. There is probably something reassuring about it, that if I'm crazy, I'm a common enough kind of crazy.

The kind that seeks enlightenment and meaning through masochistic physical efforts? Perhaps. (Though I haven't found anything like that, and more or less gave up on the concept of "meaning" as a teenager.) The self destruction that results from these pursuits, however common, is not the goal. I don't run in order to fracture a bone in my leg any more than a friend fights in order to break her orbital bone. But these things happen.

Fight sports may seem an extreme example with which to draw a parallel, given that someone else is deliberately trying to inflict damage on another person, which is not so much the case in running. Although, haven't we all enjoyed "making them hurt" at a certain point in a race that's going well? I'm sorry if you haven't. It's a gruesome sensation, but undeniably blissful. Now of course, we only want them to experience discomfort to the point that they slow down; we don't want to injure them. That, usually, is the case with fight sports as well. You want to win, and so do they. To maim isn't the explicit goal, so much as a likely byproduct of the crucible.

Likely, knowing what we now do about brain health and concussions, is probably better phrased as "certain". A sport built around blows to the head cannot end happily.

Running - and endurance sports, more broadly -  is not that. But, while reading this today, two things occurred to me.

First, that the title structure in ultra/marathon running is similarly fractured, leaving followers of the sport to idly speculate on on overall rankings, based on arbitrary ideas about the quality of a given performance at a given event. How does one compare the winners of Hardrock to Western States? Nevermind a road 100K. And what of the sparsely attended USATF championship events? Does anyone really think Kiprotich is the world's best marathoner, even though he's won the most recent Olympics and World Championship? Perhaps it's Kipsang, the current WR holder? Or Mutai, based on his New York dominance?

Second was the much discussed injury potential. Though the evidence certainly does not confirm it at the moment, it certainly could be that chronic marathoning (or further distances) permanently damages the heart and endocrine system. Runners joke that we're the "fittest group of sick and injured people in the world", but that is dark humor. Think of the burnout rate at D1 cross country powers, or even the injury rate among your local club. Think of Roes, who followed up perhaps the most dominant stretch in 100 mile mountain racing history with years off from training and racing, laid low by a still undiagnosed malady. Think of Salazar and Beardsley destroying themselves - and each other - at Boston. I cannot help but think of the multiple ambulances I saw racing to the lake this Sunday - the site of Lawrence's annual half ironman.

Some would suggest, based on such things, that we're not "meant" to run long distances. We can ignore for a moment the endurance hunting hypothesis of human evolution, and say simply that we're "meant" to keep the species moving. Nothing more. Evolution is not a benevolent god that cares for your happiness, desires, or comfort. We can further note that we're perhaps "evolved" to (though I hate that phrasing; we don't evolve to do something, we evolve in response to pressures) get punched in the face, and that, as established, is not at all good for us. (Yes, I do think that's a little silly. And certainly - sadly, typically - male centered.)

So what, then, are we to do? I haven't a clue. This isn't an opinion piece, and was never intended to appear as such. Just words, which have percolated and congealed into something.

To the extent that I have an opinion, it's this: Educate yourself perpetually. Then do whatever you want. 

June 6, 2014

Things move forward, and less painfully. Still not running.

Today marks day one of my leg not hurting at all, while walking. This, of course, has suggested to me that I ought to try running on it. See if that hurts. More accurately, see if it hurts enough to cancel out the elation I'd surely get from running a mile, then two, then three, and what the heck, we're rolling now, why not six or seven, why not an even ten?

At my last visit, my doctor congratulated me on being so patient. On letting things heal. On cross training like someone with zero hobbies that are not sweating profusely. 

I told him that I'd not yet been tried. That I hadn't run, because I couldn't. Not without immediate and severe pain. Now, anyone who runs long distances develops a somewhat intimate - if not always affectionate - relationship with pain, and I'm no different. I've run 50 miles on gravel that RDs warn auto drivers against (it tends to slash tires open) and trained through/around a metatarsal stress fracture. 

Not saying I'm an exceptionally "tough guy". In fact, quite average (if that). I'll bitch about the heat and the cold, the mud or the dust. I'll avoid cobwebs and take a different trail if someone reports seeing something that might have been a snake. If it was a copperhead or a rattler? I'm road running for a month.

But pain? Eh, I can deal with that. At least, right up until the point where I can't. This leg business went way past that.

But it's back now. Back on the side of "discomfort" and "annoyance". Back on the side of "I could really run today, right fucking now. I could just lace up and go. Go before my body knows it's supposed to hurt. Don't tell it. Sneak out in the night and return through an open window. Maybe it'll sleep through it."

I know better, of course. But knowing something and acting on it - or not acting, as in this case - are different things, separated by a hulking range of cognitive dissonance.  

I've traversed this particular range, however, and found myself on the side of patience. Of endurance - this thing I supposedly train, and yet lack in so many crucial aspects, always opting instead for immediate, compulsive, gratifying self immolation. 

I feel compelled to say now that, as ever, I do realize the triviality of this, despite my penchant for melodramatic phrasing. 

I get it. Am getting it. As ever. 

June 4, 2014

A little more on yesterday's topic.

So, that last post kind of blew up. At least, by the standards of my readership. It was posted here and here, which certainly had quite a bit to do with it.

I'm happy to see it. Most of my writing - well, all of it - is totally off the cuff. Shit bounces around in my head until the whole mess is too uncomfortable, and so I dump it here. This was no different. Just an dredge of words that ended up vaguely coherent.

I do occasionally like the result though. This was one such instance. And I do like that people read consistently, wading through my stream of consciousness neuroses. I certainly like it when more people than usual stop by.

A couple more things on that subject.

1) Bret Contreras has written a topically similar piece, that actually uses the dual hockey player/Kevin Durant example as well. It's quite good, and eschews the first person fluff that perhaps masks my basic argument. In any case, I'm somewhat encouraged to have traveled the same path of thought as one of the fitness industry's more respected names.

2) In case it wasn't clear enough already, I wasn't - and am not - suggesting that dedicated distance runners are "better" or "fitter" than people who practice other disciplines. This is an example of a day of training for the Crossfit Games team competition champions from last year. It is staggering in both volume and intensity, and beyond impressive. Any aspect, discipline, or demonstration of fitness fascinates me, as do the people who devote themselves to such things.

The aforementioned Kevin Durant has as his twitter bio a very succinct phrase, which I think applies to this topic: "I'm me, I do me, and I chill." The fitness world could stand to adopt that philosophy.

June 2, 2014

Some things about running, fitness, and balance.

This blog was born as a place to deposit my thoughts on coffee, in all of its various aspects. I was a barista - a good one, I think - hence the name "baristing". Even then, I tried mostly to write in a fairly direct, personal style. There were plenty of "authority" blogs already; I did not pretend to possess such expertise, nor did I aspire to.

That "dear diary" approach to writing has remained, even as the topic has shifted from coffee to running, primarily. Though it's not my job, it is the thing I'm most passionate about everyday, which coffee preparation used to be. Again, while I attempt not to suck, I'm not a viable expert. I have neither the academic credentials nor the speed to claim as much.

This is fair enough. (Although, I would note that many great coaches - Colm O'Connell comes first to mind - share that apparent lack of credentials.)

Enough hedging? I hope so. Because I don't intend to present this as anything other than the idle thoughts of a hobbyjogger who reads quite a lot of academic literature, both at work and (seriously) for fun.

Today, while working on The Journal of Athletic Training (a favorite), I came to an article on strength imbalances in volleyball players (not published yet, obviously, so I can't link). As you might expect, their "spiking arm" and accompanying shoulder tend to be stronger than the less used side. It was noted that this is not uncommon. And truly, it isn't. There've been similar articles about many athletes that play what I'll call asymmetrical sports: Golf, baseball, basketball, softball, football, etc.

In fact, it's quite rare to find an athlete who can match the strength - nevermind, coordination - of their "good arm" (or leg, if we're kicking things) with their lesser one. And it stands to reason. Not only do these athletes likely have a natural disposition towards a dominant side, they further this with years of dedicated practice. A right handed pitcher doesn't practice throwing left handed, just to balance things out. Certainly, they (and the other athletes noted) do general strength and mobility work to achieve "enough" general fitness (well, by the looks of some baseball players, maybe this isn't so certain); but they certainly don't aim for complete balance. It would be impossible, first of all, and counterproductive even if it weren't.

Simply put, an imbalance is not a problem per se. We need context.

The next great hockey player can't do a pullup? Again, context. He's young, and incredibly skilled. Does anyone else remember when Kevin Durant couldn't bench 185 lbs for one rep at the NBA combine? He turned out okay. Probably, he's stronger now (though the 2010 video of him "benching" 315 is quite fake, and an intentional joke). But more importantly, he can shoot a basketball really well. While hockey is certainly more physical than basketball (hence the pads), it remains primarily a sport dominated by agility and puck handling skill.

Of course, running doesn't relate to such "ball (or puck) sports" exactly. Running, importantly, is much more symmetrical. Although most people have a dominant leg, it's advantageous for runners to prevent this from manifesting to any greater degree than is necessary. And so we do lunges, squats, glute bridges, etc. At least, we're told we should. And to be clear, I believe we should. I do these things every day, and (stress fracture aside...) I've found my soft tissue holds up well. In this, I believe as Jay Johnson does, that we should get and remain strong enough to support quality running specific training.

But we still need to do that training.

Perhaps influenced somewhat by Crossfit Endurance's methodology, or the broader fitness shift towards circuit/interval training, there seems to be a lot of discussion - both among academics and the general population - about how such supplemental training could work to replace a fairly high percentage of running volume. Specifically, that many so-called "junk miles" could be omitted.

This, I think, is a mistake. Especially if we're discussing ultra/marathon training, as seems so often to be the case. Could you run a 50 miler without ever running longer than an hour in training, with a high diet of lunges to build up muscular endurance? Of course. But I don't believe it would yield your best possible performance. Furthermore, I'd question why you'd want to do that in the first place. There's nothing at all wrong with running 10-20 miles a week, focusing on fast intervals and heavy weights. But do that, and probably don't venture beyond the 5K.

If I can indulge in a brief n=1 anecdote: I did lunges, squats, and glute bridges nearly every day last year, in the buildup to my two target races - one a trail marathon, one a Kansas country gravel/dirt/road 50. And I won both! (Both smallish local races, and my times aren't fast enough to even be called slow on Let'sRun. But both were also large improvements over my times from the previous year at both races.) Probably, that had more to do with the 14 or so miles a day I averaged for a few months. More specifically, my max bench, pull ups, and squat all dropped from my then PRs, which were already well below my lifetime bests. Didn't matter. I was strong enough to support my running, which was my only concern.


I was training to run long races. Not powerlift. Not attempt to qualify for the Crossfit games. Not Spartan Races.

Context matters, which is another way of saying specificity matters. The right handed pitcher throws with his right hand, and gets better by doing so. Getting stronger at the military press will strengthen both shoulders, but will only have limited utility in making him a better pitcher. Supplemental training is supplemental. Fundamental training is fundamental. Don't try to live on a multivitamin. Eat your vegetables.