Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Single Greatest Personal Record of My Life

Though I'm feeling it this morning, yesterdays run was the single most incredible thing I have ever done in terms of exercise.

I ran 10 miles in 2 hours and 4 minutes!

My heart rate averaged 178 bpm and maxed at 190, but my cardio was good, it was my legs that died around the 9th mile.

My previous best was 3 miles in 30 minutes. In terms of distance, that's a 233% increase in mileage! And I more than tripled my duration!

In highschool my best mile run was 12:52, so for me to be able to run 10x as long, at a faster pace, it just blows my mind how far I've come.

My perspective on training, fitness and even nutrition has changed drastically over the last week, and the 10 mile run was the actualization of my new thought process.

A lot of things went into me being able to do what I did. Mindset, technique, new shoes and all the kettlebell training I've done leading up until now took part in yesterdays run. I mentioned before that I accredited my new found running prowess to my kettlebell training and I still stand by that sentiment, to some degree. High rep kettlebell training definitely provided me with the conditioning needed for a long duration physical exertion. There's something to be said about about trying to relax with 70, 106 or 140lbs on your chest before you explode that weight overhead again and again for as many times as possible. But cross training can only take you so far. If you want to get good, I mean really good at something, you have to "just do it". It's called the SAID principle - Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands - and it holds true with any kind of sport or activity.

I have found my groove in running. I have found the most efficient way to move my body as fast as possible while spending the least amount of energy. It is such a beautiful thing! I never thought I would feel this way about something I used to hate so much.

The biggest thing I have come to learn is the importance of proper breathing - diaphragmatic breathing. When you "belly breathe" the air that you take in acts as a cushion or a shock absorber for the rest of your body. This is HUGE for a 235lb man with broad shoulders and a large upper body. If you breathe shallow, like so many people do, if you only take that breath into your chest, you are putting unnecessary strain on your traps and many other smaller muscles in your neck and shoulder area that are now being assigned respiratory tasks, which is not their job. Once you learn to relax these muscles and take air deep into your belly, your entire upper body relaxes and you run smoother and more efficiently. The diaphragm is the muscle that is responsible for respiration - so use it!

Another thing I have become acutely aware of is foot placement - heel to toe. The weight shifts from the heel along the outside of the foot and is then displaced through the toes. If you get this right there is virtually no pounding or jarring of the body; again, you run smoother and more efficiently. I've also found that it helps if you prolong your stride a bit. If you extend your hip fully and allow your foot to push a little bit further behind you, this also seems to help the smoothness in which you run. I wouldn't say that I can run like the wind, but I think this is what people mean when they say that.

One more thing about stride is you need to be aware of is how high you kick your feet up. I recall when my brother and I would go jogging back in the day; any time we would run past girls he would get this noticeable bounce in his step and kick his feet almost high enough to touch his butt. If you're running for distance, you need to conserve as much energy as possible and butt-kicking your way through the neighborhood or around the track is no way to conserve your energy! No wasted movement, no wasted energy!

And perhaps the most obvious thing about running, to me anyway, is head and body positioning. Don't look down and don't bend forward. Stay as upright as possible and keep the head centered and balanced with the neck relaxed. Even though this seems like common sense, I tend to forget it sometimes and it doesn't take long for undue fatigue to set in. Fatigue in the head and neck area translates to fatigue in the mind, literally and figuratively.

The last thing I want to comment on about running is footwear. I picked up a pair of Nike Free 7.0 and ran 10 miles the first time I ever put them on. The right shoes makes a world of difference. These shoes are the closest thing to being bare foot besides those hideous Vibram 5 Fingers foot-glove thingys, and I am a firm believer that the foot was designed to perfection as is (under normal circumstances of course). I recently read a quote that said, "Smart shoes = dumb feet"... I couldn't put it any better than that.

So anyway, words cannot express how excited I am about what I now know I am capable of. I'm seriously considering running in the Baltimore Marathon next month. Imagine that... Maryland's Strongest Man in 2007 to Maryland Marathon Man in 2008. What's another 16 miles after you've already gone 10? I think I could do it in under 6 hours. If there are any distance runners out there reading this, I would love for you to weigh in your opinion. Is 4 weeks enough to train? And if it is, how would you train for it?


Garth Brantley said...

Hey Dan,

My friend Chris pointed out your post about the 10 mile run and I just read it. Ive got to say: Wow! Thats pretty impressive.

I've been an occasional distance runner and I thought Id share some my experiences. 2 years ago I was in a similar situation. I started out with the goal of running the Baltimore marathon after never having run more than 3 miles or so. I did spend 3.5 months building up to the marathon and learned a lot doing it.

Your goal of getting ready for the marathon in 4 weeks is way more impressive, but I definitely believe its possible. I would check out sites like to see what the last 4 weeks of a standard marathon training schedule would look like and then modifying from there. If you did a 15mile run next weekend, 20 miles the week after and then tapered back to 10miles on the 3rd week, that might be ideal. Then throw in some interval / sprint runs and 2-3 mile runs during the week. Practicing the intervals will help keep your heartrate down when you are running slower.
The biggest things for the marathon are learning to stay hydrated, fueled and teaching your body to use all of the metabolic pathways for energy. They say your muscle glycogen runs out somewhere around 2000 calories or 20 miles for an average person. You will need more energy than that to make it 26.2!

optraining said...

Great stuff Dan. Keep setting goals and checking them off the list. Strength - the dedication, determination, discipline and desire to believe and become.