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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Can AI predict injury risk? Can professionals?

Have you been convinced to try to change your running form because someone insists something about your form is sure to cause injury? How did that work for you?

For what seems like my entire running life, I’ve always heard about how certain aspects of one’s running form are sure to cause injuries. Some of the advice I’ve heard or read about is so contradictory that it would seem that we’re all bound to get injured on a monthly basis because, no matter what you do, you’ll find someone who will tell you that’s bound to cause injury in short order.

But is all of this actually true?

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Is extreme exercise bad for your heart?

The eternal debate is back, if it ever went away. Is too much running bad for your heart? I’ve faced a number of people who have tried telling me it is so. Chances are you also have.

But is it true? The “evidence” given to support this idea is usually anecdotal or flat out false. How many times have you been told about Jim Fixx? While his death was tragic, when you look at the big picture with him specifically or with runners overall, things look much different.

Well, now we have more evidence that even extreme exercise doesn’t appear to be a health risk. It appears going beyond a certain extent of exercise doesn’t help your health but it also doesn’t harm your health. So, if you enjoy doing more, don’t worry about it.

Read on for more of what I’ve been reading about recently…

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Can you talk yourself into better performance?

An interesting question to think about: can changing your self-talk actually help you run better? I’m sure many of us just answered “yes”. If you have negative self-talk, that’s not going to help you run faster. Positive self-talk will, though.

What about more subtle differences? Can slight changes in how you think of things during races help you? As it turns out, they can.

When you refer to yourself in the second person (“You can do it” instead of “I can do it”) you actually do perform better.

Also of note is that more positive references were used in the study. “You/I have to do it” was replaced with “You/I can do it” for example. While it doesn’t seem like this was addressed as part of the test, I have a suspicion this would also make a difference.

This is just one small study but it’s worth trying.

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