Leveling Up as a Runner

“It never gets easier, you just go faster” – Greg Lemond

The above quote was made by a cyclist, but it definitely applies to running as well.  Is it true?

I do believe there is truth to this statement, increased speed is a byproduct of hard work and training.  Where running is concerned I believe this statement is a little limited.  Obviously speed is not the only factor to consider, there’s strength, endurance, experience, mental toughness, etc.

You can even draw some parallels to the video game concept of leveling up.

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In some cases the “Leveling Up” is very literal.  Nike+ has a system that assigns a specific color as your total miles increase.  The color system is definitely a great way to encourage motivate runners.  Some runners take it further and participate in challenges as well.

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Then you have the  ‘Level Up’ training system developed by Adam and Kara Goucher and provided by Run The Edge.  The program structures the runner’s training as an actual game in which you accumulate points by completing a mix of different workout options, all assigned a certain number of points.  Accumulating a specific number of points will allow you to Level Up and move on to the next level!

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For those who grew up playing video games, all of this Leveling Up can appeal to our gamer sensibilities and to a degree, our competitive nature.  One common theme I’ve noticed is that after a certain level is achieved, there are more requirements to achieve the next level.

For me, the concept of Leveling Up in running relates to fitness, and other gains that I mentioned early in this post, (speed, endurance, strength, experience and mental toughness).  Initially these gains can make running feel easier.  The key is recognizing when we achieve these gains and stepping up our running and training accordingly.

Post LA Marathon I discovered that I had leveled up, in different areas of my running.  My tempo run pace felt much easier to maintain, previously challenging hills were no longer kicking my butt, etc.  I couldn’t help but test my new fitness during some workouts, resulting in some personal bests.  Since, I’ve decided to make some adjustments to my running and my goals.  I signed up for a 5k ready to run a new PR.

Here are 4 points if you have recently “Leveled Up”

  1. Challenge yourself – If workouts that were once considered challenging are much easier it may be time to step it up.  Feeling stronger?  It may be time to add more hills or more challenging workouts to your training.  Increased endurance? It may be time to start training for a longer race!  Faster?  You may benefit from a new pace group or training with some of your faster friends.
  2. Increase your mileage – To continue to see fitness gains it’s often necessary to increase weekly mileage as well.  Think about going from a Novice level training program to Intermediate.  Though there are different mileage options on training plans to accommodate those with busier schedules, generally more advanced training programs will include increased mileage.
  3. Recover – While stepping up your training efforts as a result of fitness gains its also important to consider recovery.  Being able to perform more quality workouts also means that it will take a toll on your body.  And while increased fitness may lead to taking less rest days during the week, recovery should not be neglected.  Whether its in the form of a complete rest day, an easy run, or cross training, its important to give your body a chance to recover to avoid over usage injuries, especially while you’re pushing yourself to new limits!
  4. Adjust your goals – I’ve touched on goals in a previous post and they will be different for everyone.  For many runners this means attempting to run a PR in a race.  For others it may mean racing a new distance be it a 5k, Half Marathon, Marathon, or Ultra.

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If you are struggling with leveling up and achieving fitness gains there may be different things to consider.

  1. Nutrition – Fueling your body is just as important as your training.  If your nutrition is suffering your performance will also suffer, at the very least, you will not be performing to your full potential.  For those struggling in this area it can be as simple as making healthier choices, for others it may not be so simple and I’d recommend consulting with a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist that’s familiar with the needs of endurance athletes.  I, personally saw great improvements after I incorporated using my NutriBullet and made other changes to my diet.
  2. Mix up your training – If the majority of your runs are the same distance, pace, terrain, etc. mixing it up is a great way to see improvement.  Longer runs should be slower, while shorter runs, faster.  Incorporating hills, trail running, and intervals can activate different muscle groups and lead to improvements.  Running on different surfaces is also a good idea.  A good running coach can identify areas on improvement and recommend different types of training, workouts, runs, to help get you to the next level.
  3. Rest / Recovery – Once again I must harp on rest and recovery.  If you are not seeing fitness gains one possibility is that you are not giving your body enough time to recover from hard workouts.  In addition to rest days, post run recovery is key.  Getting proper nutrients, proteins and carbs following a tough workout can help speed up recovery and maximize your fitness gains.

Best of luck to everyone, whatever your goals are, no matter what level you are at.  I believe that running should always be enjoyed, but its always nice to see progress!

Happy Running

– Eddie D

 

 

 

The Journey Part 1

Everyone’s life is a unique journey, and the same goes for running.  Its easy to appreciate someone’s accomplishments in running.  Runners, after all, are a still a minority, marathon runners even more so, and then you have triathletes and ultra-marathoners.  Many who don’t run are impressed at anyone covering any distance, regardless off the time. They may not always understand why we do it, but they respect the effort nonetheless.  Those who do run and participate in these sports have a little more insight about what it takes and can relate to the hard work put in.  Then there are others who are hard to impress, those who judge harshly and only recognize an accomplishment if it meets their specific criteria.  This narrow minded point of view is unfortunate.  To them I say: You can’t accurately judge someone’s accomplishments without knowing their journey!

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During my training with Team NutriBullet, I had the pleasure of meeting some incredible people and hearing lots of stories.  I was constantly inspired by their stories and by their accomplishments.  I learned the journey that brought them to Team NutriBullet, and I was also witnessing the journey that would lead them to the starting line of the 2014 LA Marathon.

Weightloss? Check! Overcoming personal hardships? Check! Overcoming health risks? Check!  Motivating family and friends to live a healthy lifestyle! Check!

When I look at what my Team NutriBullet teammates have overcome through their Journeys, it inspires me to strive for new heights, it makes me want to challenge myself even more!

My own journey may not be the most exciting, but it got me to where I’m at!

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I was pretty active as a kid in the 80’s and 90’s (even with my bad coordination), though I somehow never ran track or cross country.  I played basketball, softball, touch football, and other sports with my friends (though never good enough to make it on a team).  I biked and played handball with my dad, I was a cub scout and a boy scout, I took martial arts for nearly 5 years.

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I first started running in senior year of HS.  I ran and worked out with the Delayed Entry Program every Saturday morning to prepare for Marine Corps boot camp.  I somehow managed to run 3 miles in 18:30 in Boot Camp, but I didn’t get any faster.

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Though I occasionally enjoyed running, the Marine Corps also made me hate it at times.  Big, company formation runs were slow, dull and boring (even with cadences).  Give me a hard, fast, ridge run instead!  Give me a challenge!  Give me some adventure!  Early in my enlistment there were plenty of those, but later on they were few and far between. Eventually I got tired of running and when I got out after 8 1/2 years I stopped.  I stopped running for close to a year, though I wasn’t doing much of it anyway in my final year of enlistment.

Eddie

For much of my 1st year out of the Corps, I was pretty out of shape.  I not only gained weight, but I got slow and sluggish.  While I was enlisted, I didn’t worry much about what I ate, my metabolism was fast and I stayed active.  But now my bad habits had caught up to me. Eventually I got tired of feeling the way I felt; I didn’t like what was happening to me, and I wasn’t going to let it continue.  I decided to get in shape the best way I knew how… running.

When I started running again I started out with 1 mile, okay a little winded but not so bad, 2 miles, yeah, that sucked!  I wasn’t expecting the 18 year old kid who ran that 18:30 3 miler, but at least I could run a 7 minute pace?  Nope, not even close!  This was like starting from scratch, I was slow, winded and yes I was sore the next day!  And that was from only 2 miles!  I sucked it up and kept trying, I tried to commit to running, though I wasn’t consistent.  I had to retrain myself to get up early and run when I didn’t feel like it.  Eventually I started running with music to help motivate and distract me.  Though the first big step I took in my running came in ’08 when I started using Nike+ iPod!

… To Be Continued…

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My running shoe history

Unless you run barefoot, a pair of running shoes is arguably the single most essential item for a runner.  Through the years running shoes change, and often times its difficult to replace a shoe that you loved.  Sometimes its quite the opposite, you cant wait to retire a pair of shoes and replace them with something better!  Sometimes you simply need shoes for different types of runs.

Since I’m tapering for the LA Marathon, I’m trying to stop making myself crazy by obsessing over ever detail of my upcoming race!  I decided to review my running shoe history and track the progression I’ve made since I started running.

Non Running Shoes – Nike AF 1’s / Fila Grant Hills: When I had to train in High School before joining the military, it was probably one of these shoes that were definitely not made for running.  Hey, I didn’t know any better!!!

Nike-Air-Force-1-Black-White-Black Fila Grant Hill Original

Military Running Shoes – New Balance Boot Camp Trainers: Standard issue “go fasters” not sure of the model. I can’t really tell if they made my feet hurt or not, because, lets face it, everything hurt during Boot Camp!

NB Basic Training

Now here are the shoes that I actually purchased willingly for running purposes…

Asics Gel Cumulus VII: I know I purchased lots of different shoes while in the Marine Corps but these are the only ones I can remember aside from the boot camp shoes.  I continued to use these for a little while after I got out of the marines.  I had no idea about how to pick running shoes when I bought these but had heard a lot about the Asics Gel.  I actually loved this shoes and tried hard to find them again after I got out but never did.  Definitely made my feet feel great after many miles of running in them, but the newer model changed so much that it was essentially a totally different shoe!  I’m pretty sure these shoes were promoting heel striking so they’re not something I would wear now!

Asics Gel Cumulus VIIMy Brooks Phase – Brooks Infiniti, Brooks Infiniti 2, Brooks Axiom 3: The first time I stepped foot into a specialty running store it was The Starting Line in Venice.  I wanted another pair like the Asics Gel Cumulus but since they were so old and outdated I had to be recommended something else.  The salesman had me try on at least 6 different pairs of shoes, asking me which one felt the best, while looking at me run down the road in each shoe and telling me that I over-pronate.  He recommended the Brooks Infiniti which were the most expensive at over $120.  I wasn’t sure, but I took his expert advice and bought them.  I ran my first Half Marathon in them (’09 Surf City), and then picked up another pair at the expo which I used to run the ’09 LA Marathon.  The thing about the Brooks Infiniti, though they had great cushioning and pronation control, they were very heavy (about 13+ oz).  I wore the Brooks Infiniti 2 for my next full before picking up the Brooks Axiom in an attempt to go lighter.  Aside from them being lighter, I never really liked the feel or the ride of the Axiom that much. As a result I didn’t run any races in them, but they stayed in my rotation for a little while before I finally retired them for good.

Brooks Infiniti 1 Brooks Infiniti 2 Brooks Axiom

My Mizuno Phase – Wave Elixir 4, Wave Elixir 3, Wave Inspire 4, Wave Ronin 2: I first fell in love with Mizuno Shoes during a fun run at Runnergy in Sherman Oaks.  Mizuno was there for shoe testing and I tried a pair of the Elixir 4’s, I picked them up and started using them for my speedwork around the time I was still running in the Infiniti 2’s.  I loved them so much that I wanted another pair.  I couldn’t find the 4’s but I did find the Elixir 3’s on the discount rack in Roadrunner Sports.  After a little while I loved them more then the 4’s (better fit) and I ran the 2010 LA Marathon in them as well.  I rotated between the 2 during the 2010 Ragnar Relay.  What I loved about the Elixirs were how low to the ground and light they were.  I had never run in a shoe quite like that and I was running faster as a result.  However, the lightness of the shoes took their toll and I needed another pair with more cushion to rotate them out with.  When I picked up the Elixir 3’s I also picked up the Wave Inspire 4’s.  These were supposed to by my “every day trainers” but after 2 runs I realized they weren’t going to work.  They simply hurt my feet and did not find their way to my permanent shoe rotation.  Even though I got them for dirt cheap they were still a waste of money!  I discovered the Wave Ronin 2 the same way I discovered the Elixirs, during a Mizuno Test Run at Runnergy.  These shoes were even lighter and lower the the ground than the Elixir and just looked fast.  For such a low profile shoe, I put a lot of training miles on these puppies!  I ran the 2011 Pasadena Marathon in the Ronin’s and thought for sure they were my secret weapon to qualify for Boston.  Well, 2 things messed that up: a hilly course and improper training!

Mizuno Wave Elixir 4 Mizuno Wave Elixir 3 Mizuno Wave Inspire 4 Mizuno Wave Ronin 2

Nike Pegasus Bowerman 25: I won these shoes in a Nike + contest.  I thought I was going to get the new Nike Lunar Glides (remember those?) but I was sent the Pegasus instead.  I thought these shoes were big and bulky, but they didn’t annoy me like the Wave Inspire so they found a place in my rotation.  I used these shoes for trail runs, in-climate weather runs, and recovery runs when my feet and legs were sore.

Nike Pegasus 25

K Swiss Blade Light Run: Another shoe I discovered during a fun run/test run at Runnergy.  I actually really enjoyed these shoes they were fast yet cushioned and had a smooth ride.  The one gripe at the time was the exposed foam, but now that’s something that is becoming more and more common place in an attempt to make shoes lighter.  The only reason I didn’t run a race in this shoes is because the Ronin’s were much lighter and I thought I could PR in them, though I ran some 20 milers in the Blades and felt great!  These shoes also had an 8 mm heel to toe drop which was the lowest I’ve run in at any point up til then.

K Swiss Blade Light Run

My Saucony Phase – Kinvara 2, Fastwitch 5, Kinvara 3: I started hearing a lot about Saucony shoes, specifically the Kinvaras for a while.  The first time I heard about the Original Kinvara’s I thought they were too “minimal” for me.  Since I started making the transition to lighter more low profile shoes I finally decided to try the Kinvara 2’s when I found them on sale online.  Yes, I purchased these shoes without having tried them on and was pretty certain I was going to love them, and when I got them they didn’t disappoint!  When I first started training in the Kinvaras my Ronin’s and Blades were nearing the end of life, but I was rotating them.  While the Kinvara’s felt great there was a transition to be made to this reduced running shoe.  I was making the transition to running on my midfoot/forefoot and my calves were adjusting in a major way.  Once I was fully adjusted, it was on.  I picked up another pair and wore them for the 2012 Malibu Half Marathon.  I picked up a pair of the Saucony Fastwitch 5 on a whim during a trip to the Saucony Outlet in Camarillo.  I was actually looking for another pair of Kinvaras but they didn’t have my size, so I picked up the Fastwitch instead.  With a 4 mm drop, light weight, and stiffer ride they were great for speed work and tempo runs.  I ran the Rose Bowl Half Marathon in them and they held up pretty well through the mixed terrain.  Even still, I enjoyed running in the Kinvara much more so when the time came for another pair I picked up the Kinvara 3 instead.  I recently ran the Ventura Marathon in them, finishing with my second fastest time.

Sacuony Kinvara 2 Red Sacony Kinvara 2 Saucony Fastwitch 5 Saucony Kinvara 3

Going Minimus – New Balance Minimus M3090v2, New Balance Minimus MR20v2: I almost wasn’t going to “Go Minimus”, I actually was content in “Staying Kinvara”, but I am glad that I have discovered the New Balance Minimus line of shoes!  I have already reviewed both of these shoes in detail on this blog so I won’t go into too much detail.  I received the Minimus M3090v2 as a Christmas gift and the Minimus MR20v2 as a birthday gift 2 weeks later.  A natural progression from the Kinvaras.

New Balance Minimus m3090v2 New Balance MR20V2Brooks Pure Drift: This is my first pair of Brooks since the Axioms and my first pair in their “Pure Project” line.  Early this past week I learned that I won a $100 gift card from Brooks Running.  Since I’m not currently wearing any of their shoes I decided to try something from their Pure line which I have been very intrigued about.  I chose the Pure Drift because it was the lightest and most “minimal” of the choices.  I figure, if it doesn’t work out for longer runs its super light so I can use it for speed.  But if it does work out for longer runs then all the better!  I’ve read some very mixed reviews about this shoe, and while I have yet to run in them they were extremely comfortable and fit perfectly when I tried them on.  It’s also worth noting that I may be the demographic that Brooks was going for when they designed this shoe.  I’m a light weight runner looking to run fast!

Brooks Pure Drift

So now you’ve taken a look at my running shoe history whether you’ve actually read all of this or just looked at the eye candy 😉  Go ahead recommend some shoes for me to try!  Merrell, Altra, Newton, Vibram?  Something else form the brands I’ve mentioned above, or something else all-together?!  I’d love to hear what you think!

Happy Running!

Eddie D