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Training Methods

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 4:52 pm
by wvrunner
I thought this would be a good board to get some thoughts on a topic I am curious about. I just finished reading Alberto Salazar's 14 minutes and the book King of the Roads (focusing on Salazar, Rodgers, Shorter). When I began running in 1986 I heard tales about these 3 as they were winding down their careers. The guys I learned from were very accomplished regional runners and their methodologies were pretty simple and straightforward as were the three aforementioned runners. Running even in the 80's was still relatively uncomplicated compared to running nowadays.

It makes me wonder when you look at runners from the "running boom" period how much of an influence do things like diet, massage, gels, electrolyte tablets, fluids belts, technical gear,minimalist shoes, internet and on and on really have on performance? Those guys ran fast and ran a lot of miles and raced very frequently at very high levels with none of the above. Not just the big three but U.S. running in general had much more depth overall.

The guys I learned a lot from (2:17 marathoner, 4:07 miler) had terrible diets, never stretched and didn't ever take water during a run, even long runs in their marathons buildups. They raced often and ran very respectable times.

Does anybody wonder that we  have overcomplicated a simple sport or is running just evolving to the point (with the aid of technology) in that we are still learning? I wonder myself when I see many of the local runners loaded up with gear for a 8-10 mile run, how did something once so simple get to be so technical for many runners? Even with all the technical advances times on the broader scale are slower than ever.

With all that said I want to go on record to say that I am a huge advocate of Tinman's philosophy. I also enjoy and gain much insight from this message board. It actually has many of the same concepts/philosophies that I was taught "back in the day". I would love to hear some of the boards thoughts on this.

Thanks for listening!

Re: Training Methods

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 6:29 pm
by ap4305
Some good observations.  I don't think things become overcomplicated per se, but I do think that free access to ideas has made it a greater challenge for people to filter information.  Its easy to lose sight of priorities and just throw a bunch of technologies at a problem without actually understanding the situation and blindly hope that something sticks. 

Analogy: the runner is a race car.  Everything is important on a race car, but nothing more than the engine.  Yet just because you have insane horsepower under the hood and can go really fast doesn't mean its ideal to use garbage gasoline, allow the car to get out of alignment, and run balding tires.  Details all matter but within the construct of your priorities.   

While it might be true that depth has decreased from the running boom, also consider that triathlon, swimming, and cycling were much smaller (or nonexistent) back in the running boom, so the current talent pool for endurance sports is more widely distributed.  And that's not even mentioning the role of other sports like soccer and lacrosse in shrinking the talent pool. 

I think running at every level suffers from a softening of the American lifestyle.  Its a crisis of physical literacy.  Not saying every kid needs to work on a farm for ten years, but kids arrive to their first sports practice in much worse shape than ever.  Also, the adults who launched the running boom had a base of physical activity from lifestyle and school PE, even if they weren't previously runners.  Contrast that to the modern rec runner who typically arrives to the sport after years of physical neglect. 

Re: Training Methods

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:03 pm
by runthe8
I see your point, but from a different perspective.  My husband was a national/world class runner back in the early 80's.  Like Salazar and the rest of those guys, he ran 100+ miles per week, at fast paces, all the time.  Lots of "engine" work, but no "chassis" work. The exercise physiologist (or trainer, or PT, or something similar) at Athletics West told my husband he would have a short career and couldn't believe he had never had a serious injury (yet) due to his biomechanical issues.  Sure enough, his career ended at age 24.  The exercise physiologist knew there were problems ahead, but didn't have any real advice as to how to prevent the problems.  We know so much more now.  Nowadays, there are people who could have given my husband corrective exercises to do, fancy cross training on underwater treadmills, etc and maybe he would have actually been able to continue to compete.

Re: Training Methods

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 6:05 am
by Spider Man
I would endorse the sentiments of the original poster ... running is (& should be) at heart a simple sport.

I think there are a number of reasons to explain the trend (from the 80s onwards) to over complicate things ....

To focus on one ....

I can recall (here in the UK) waiting avidly each month to pick up copies of the American imports "Runners World" & "The Runner" ... these like most UK running magazines of the time focused on articles about top class (elite) runners, elite race reports, & coaching articles by real coaches. The running boom of the 80s saw these & other "running" magazines moving towards catering for the new mass participants ... to the point that most running magazines these days focus on ... quick fixes (run a marathon on 30 miles a week!); human interest stories (how running saved me from prison etc.);& insane amounts of blanket advertising. ... The kind of sane running advice that was available from other runners who had achieved a very good standard is now drowned out by all this "noise"!

Other factors ...

* Growth of charity running versus competitive running
* Greater emphasis & encouragement of "participation" over "competition"
* Exercise/Sport Science taking precedence over practical coaching knowledge, experience & practice
* People having less "free" time to devote to a competitive sport
* Societal changes (especially in the UK ... I can't comment on the US)

I could go on ....

Re: Training Methods

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:36 am
by wvrunner
Thanks for all of the replies. I think everyone has made some very valid points. The same societal changes you see in the U.K. we see here in the U.S. too Spidey. I teach middle school PE and the kids attitudes towards physical activity and even going outside (who doesn't want to be outside on a nice day?????) have really changed.

The local road races also have changed. More about participation over competition/place. In our little area running is really picking up in participation but times at the races seem to be slowing down. A 3 hour marathon is now viewed with same regard as a 2:30 marathon was 20 years ago.

Re: Training Methods

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:17 pm
by Tinman
I think before the 2000s, people considered it a badge of honor to be a runner. Our code of honor was mental toughness! We were stoic. Our goals were simple: beat others (compete), deal with mother nature, rather than give up or given in, and "just run hard!"! Now, society is different. Everybody gets a medal for finishing a race, but back then only the top three received a medal. Perhaps it was the fact that we had to be really good to get a medal that made us work harder, run more, and and compete with very high, raw motivation and desire that brought out our best. Maybe...I'm just getting old!

Re: Training Methods

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:17 am
by ap4305
At the front of races, part of the dilution comes from there simply being more races; perhaps an expression of how we have elevated participation as the priority.  Gosh, during prime racing seasons it seems there's at least a half dozen 5k's around every city and town every weekend.  In the marathon, just look at every week and you'll see plenty of small to midsized marathons won in decent times (mid 220s to 240s).  But the dispersion of sub-elites means smaller packs at the bigger races, meaning fewer people to work together for fast times.  And of course, back in the day, you would never dare disrespect the distance by showing up unprepared with the mere goal of finishing.  If you weren't ready to compete, you either found something else to do with your time, or you accepted the challenge and put in the work to make yourself better.     

What's interesting is that we've lost that sensible middle ground of good, hard, pure competition in many sports, not just running...these days its either the one extreme of elevating participation over competition (often reaching a cold disdain for those that actually care about performance...frustrating to hear when anyone who strives for excellence is tabbed as "elitist").  Or we'll see the other extreme of "win at all costs", which is expressed through unhealthy behaviors like "psycho sports parent" or the many forms of cheating we commonly see these days. 

Re: Training Methods

Posted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:11 am
by Jim
Tinman makes a good point. I started running in 1980 at age 15 and abck then there were very few people running half marathons and marathons just to finish.  Everybody wanted to break 3 hours, or 3:30 but if you ran a 4:30 it was an embarrasment.  It was about being competitive, not participative.  Seriously, what's the point of a six month running program to get you through a 5 hour marathon if you quit right after and go back to being a couch potato?

On the other hand, where have world records gone in the past couple of decades?  I remember when Mamede ran his 27:12 10,000 WR and it was a phenomenal time in, what, 1984.  Today it's not that competitive.  Ditto for the marathon, you need to be running sub 2:06 to be in the hunt but in 1984 a 2:08 was a shockingly fast time.  If you had suggested in 1982 that the world record in 30 years would be better than 2:04 a lot of people would have bet the farm againts you. Or that a woman would post a 2:15? Crazy. 

So I think training methods have adapted to the science and we are training more effectively today than 30 years ago.  And there is far more depth in the sport, not just in Africa but here in Canada and the US.  And the runners are better athletes now than before, so their careers last longer with gym work, physio, etc.

However, nothing is better than just lacing up and heading out the door for a relaxed 10 miler with your buddies. Running doesn't have to be work all the time.

Re: Training Methods

Posted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 12:20 pm
by Tinman
Excellent comments by AP and Jim!

I do caution people with whom I communicate that some of today's top race-times may be tainted. For me, a red flag is raised for any 10,000m time under 26:50. Keep in mind that PEDS provide a 2% performance enhancement for top athletes. For example, someone who is fit enough to run 27:30 in the 10,000m will be able to run 26:57 on PEDS. Someone in 27:00 form can run 26:27 for 10,000m. The use of PEDS reduces fatigue. Power doesn't necessarily increase a lot, but reduction of fatigue is present during high level performance.