by Carrie Lane, Director of Sport Performance
I recently returned from a trip to my former hometown of Charlottesville, VA. It was filled with running related events, including speaking at the UVA Running Medicine Conference, watching friends and former athletes run the Charlottesville 10 Miler, providing input on a soon-to-be started treadmill studio, and hanging out at a new local brewery founded by some former UVA runners. All this hanging out with runners got me thinking about how to maintain longevity in running and stay healthy doing it. Here are 4 recent observations I made:
1. Stay in touch with the short stuff. Faster, more intense paces will improve your running economy and increase your pain tolerance, which can make those long runs faster. Always devote some training sessions during your week and month to shorter, more intense running. Don't shy away from mile and 5K races, faster track workouts, or short hill sprints. Not convinced? Check out this blog that presents scientific evidence on the power of speed in the endurance world.
2. Replace a few miles with circuit-style weight sessions. Stay away from becoming a "mileage slave" and instead calculate your overall work capacity. Circuit-style weights still train the aerobic system in the background, so you won't lose fitness. But you will gain variety of movement from the repetitive, forward motion of distance running. You will be a more durable athlete if you consistently do bodyweight or lifting exercises that involve big ranges of motion, more intense muscular contractions, rotational movements, and posterior chain work. All to off-set the slow contractions and repetitive range of motion of running. Check out the Strength Training for Runners Programs if you are ready to jump in.
3. Build your running community. The solitude of a run might be your only time to think and briefly escape craziness of your life. But having some sort of community to call on keeps you motivated and changes things up. This could be a once-a-week training partner or group run. Whatever your fancy, a community or partner challenges your accountability and provides just enough distraction every now and then to spice up your routine.
4. Take an off-season. Professional runners always take some down time and you should too. Every year, replace at least 4 weeks of running with another sport to maintain your overall fitness. A softball league, ski season, even just playing with your kids more than usual. These are all ways to keep your mind fresh and work different muscle groups. If you stay moderately fit, your return to running fitness won't be difficult.