Why does cross training work?

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you’ve probably seen me mention specificity of training. In short, this is the idea that the best way to become a better runner is to run. You can do other things and they will help but they won’t help as much as devoting the same amount of time and energy to running.

But then, why do things like strength training matter? Strength training specifically is extremely different than distance running. It’s basically a polar opposite. So why does it help us run better?

Well, Alex Hutchinson offers some thoughts on that. An interesting read.

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Returning to running after COVID-19?

As should be expected with a virus that we didn’t even know existed a year ago, we’re still learning a lot about COVID-19. I’m sure you’ve all heard the good news that a very effective vaccine is likely on the way but it’s still going to take time to get it produced and distributed. Meanwhile, people are still getting infected and will continue to do so for a while.

So everything we can learn about it is important. If you catch it, you want to know what it means, right? Well, here’s more on returning to your workout routine after recovering from COVID-19. The short story? Be patient and come back gradually. There is evidence that a significant (in some studies a disturbingly high) number of people who have recovered, even very healthy and fit people, developing long lasting serious side effects.

So please be careful. Based on what I’ve seen, I’d recommend being far more cautious than I normally recommend for coming back from a cold or flu.

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How to race during a pandemic

For the first time since 1989, I haven’t run an in person race this year. I know there have been a few opportunities this fall but I just don’t feel that any of these events were, to me, worth the risk of potentially being a part of the problem and spreading a serious virus. I terribly miss head to head racing and everything that goes with it but running still means a lot to me even without that and some things, like the health of my family and community, are more important.

That said, we all have to make our own choices. I don’t pass value judgments on to others who make different decisions. I hope they will take reasonable precautions and consider the safety procedures of the races they are considering but, if they feel the race is worth it, that’s their choice.

So, if you’re one of those people who are looking for a race, how do you decide what race to do and then how to safely participate? The always great Gretchen Reynolds offers some thoughts on that.

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Don’t fear neck gaiters

You probably saw the headlines: neck gaiters, commonly used by runners, are worse than not covering your face at all for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Well, the headlines didn’t really get the story right.

The first thing to note is that the study only tested one person with a gaiter. With only one person and only one test on that person, no result would be statistically significant. Many variables could have played a role in the result.

The second thing to note is that the study wasn’t testing the performance of masks. It was testing the performance of the test being used. It was to determine if an easy, low cost test works.

It’s worth noting that other tests, including one noted at the link above, show that gaiters do in fact work. Single layer gaiters like most running types don’t work as well as multi-later ones but they still do work.

So, if a single layer gaiter is what you have available and you’re in a place where you’re around people, use it. It does help.

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There is room in the middle

This month, I’m going to bring up a couple topics and expand on them a little more than normal for a recap post. Then I’ll throw a bonus link or two at the end. Fewer links, a little more in depth this time.

To start, we all are familiar with hard/easy training. I’ve even written about it here. But isn’t there a value to the middle ground? Isn’t there sometimes a reason to venture off the ends of the spectrum?

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Facing the reality of this fall racing season

With the news yesterday that the New York City Marathon has been canceled, we’ve now seen Boston, Berlin and New York taken off the 2020 calendar. Chicago and London (currently rescheduled from spring) are still scheduled to go but don’t be surprised if they also cancel. During a pandemic, it would be irresponsible to bring tens of thousands of runners from around the world together, along with workers, volunteers and spectators.

Given what the experts are saying about a likely rebound of the pandemic in the fall, it’s likely that most large events and probably many, if not most, smaller events will not be happening this year.

I don’t say this to be a downer. I say it as a reminder of the reality this year is throwing at us. Keep this in mind as you’re training and adjust your training accordingly.

Now, on to some hopefully less depressing things I’ve been reading this month…

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You can build muscle and strength

You’ve probably heard the idea that endurance training blocks or greatly reduces the ability to muscle mass and strength through strength training. It’s been “common knowledge” for decades.

However, there is some evidence that’s not totally accurate.

More important for those of us who are focusing on maximizing our running performance: what does this do for the runner? It appears the greatest benefit comes from fatigue resistance. So, along with already documented injury prevention benefits, strength train to improve your performance late in races when you are exhausted but looking for that extra gear to chase down the competition or your goal time.

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Why do we feel and do worse when running alone?

I’ll kick this month’s recap off with a timely topic. If you’ve ever run a solo time trial, as many people are doing now, you’ve probably noticed that you can’t quite go as fast as you can in a race. I know, personally, I can’t even come close in a time trial to what I can do in a rac.e

But why is this? The stock answer is always that competition pushes us to do better and there’s obviously truth to that but what about the competition? Drafting doesn’t count for all of the difference. Motivation? Some other psychological component?

Well, this isn’t the complete answer but it does point in the direction of a potential answer. Essentially, most people feel “better” when running with others, which allows them to run harder. Feeling “better” is hard to define and it’s hard to say what we can do about this while running by ourselves. However, it’s bringing some additional level of understanding to the topic.

It’s also a good reminder right now that, especially if you usually have training partners, it’s ok to be running slower right now even while the run may feel just as hard or harder. It’s actually perfectly normal for that to happen.

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Can you boost your immune system?

Before I even start: For the best information and advice on COVID-19, trust the CDC.

I, as I’m sure many of you, have been a bit distracted this month with COVID-19. I admit that I haven’t been reading as much about training and racing as I normally do. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading.

On the topic of current events, one of the things I did read was quite timely. Some good advice on giving your immune system its best chance to not just fight off COVID-19 but whatever infectious disease may be going around.

Please stay safe. Keep running but consider solo runs. In the meantime, more of what I did manage to read is below.

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