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?

Yes. I’ve personally always been a fan of sometimes going with moderate workouts. Especially right now, when we don’t know exactly when our next big race will be, I’ve become an even bigger fan.

Well, two sources I like to read both recently tackled this topic, from slightly different perspectives that I think are both very practical. I’ll let their perspectives stand and throw in a third perspective I don’t think either has fully addressed and I’ve found myself using personally.

When I was younger, it was no big deal to do 3 truly hard days a week. My primary workout would be on Tuesday, a secondary but still hard workout would be on Thursday, then the long run which I would make downright grueling at times would be on Saturday. As I get older, I just can’t do that anymore.

But I can still get in 2 truly hard days a week, the Tuesday primary workout and the Saturday long run. On Thursday, I find that I sometimes can do something but it can’t be another truly hard day. So a moderate day fits in there well. Maybe a tempo run at a quick but not hard effort, maybe something like 3-5 miles at around marathon effort. Maybe a few short repeats like 4×400 at 5K effort or even 4×160 at 3K effort, not a grueling 12×400. This is a case where that moderate day fits well and I’ve also used something similar with the runners I coach with a good amount of success.

I’m sure you remember the book Born to Run and all the attention it received about a decade ago. On the top of the list of topics it got attention for was minimalist or barefoot running. Well, a new paper (Alex Hutchinson’s review here) dispels some of the myths around the Tarahumara. Probably the biggest thing to note:

Their ability, the authors suggest, “derives from hard work, physically active lifestyles, determination, and the spiritual and social values they place on endurance running.”

In other words, there is no magic potion or silver bullet. Flimsy sandals, genes, nothing. There’s some value in the cultural importance to running but, beyond that, it’s a lot of hard work, the same pain and suffering any successful distance runner goes through and plenty of determination.

The timing of your meals matters. Regardless of overall calorie consumption, those who skip breakfast perform worse while feeling like they are working harder in the evening.

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