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Building up miles

Probably the most challenging thing for me (aside from overcoming my fear of heights and death) in training for the tough mudder will be getting some miles under my belt.  Most running programs would not have a novice attempt a half marathon (which is about the same distance) unless he or she were already running 15-20 miles a week.

Running, although its one of our simplest activities, has a lot of demands that need to be met gradually.  All modes of exercise should be approached with moderation.  Our bodies will adapt to the stresses we apply to them, but it takes time.  Tendons and ligaments need to get stronger.  Neurological coordination needs to improve.  Muscles need to grow and reinforce themselves.  Just remember, the first guy to ever run a marathon died.  Too much too soon is rarely a good thing.  We must give ourselves some time to adapt to the demands we place on our bodies.  Although death from running is not my primary concern, overuse injuries certainly  are.  What's the point of training for this race only to be too crippled to do anything else due to chronic injuries?

Phillipides, the first marathon runner. 
Because this is a pretty challenging distance for me, I'm going to add the miles in slowly.  I'm also going to make sure that I am running efficiently.  My best friend growing up used to tell me I ran like a chicken.  Which is probably true because the track coaches in high school always looked somewhat horrified and/or amused when I would attempt to sprint or get through hurdles without wiping out the whole line during gym class.  For the record, I was not in track and field, I was in the marching band.
Despite looking silly, chickens are actually pretty good runners.
As an adult I finally had a coach give me some pointers and was able to change my running style to not only look less ridiculous, but to be more efficient and less likely to hurt myself.  Because all of our bodies are different, there is no single ideal running form, but there are some common characteristics to good running form:

  • A stable upper body, no excessive bouncing or twisting.
  • Arms moving efficiently in the direction of the movement.  Your upper body plays a large role in both speed and balance when you run.  
  • Feet striking under the hips, no excessive reaching.
  • Relatively "stiff" leg joints, no excessive flexion of the ankle, hips, and knees.

So, lets get back to distance.  I haven't run more than a mile or two since the Warrior Dash in August.  So that means I'd better get my running shoes back on.  I'm going to start adding in some nice easy distances 1-3 miles and just do what I can.  I'll probably mix these up in both constant steady state runs as well as some intervals where I may increase my speed for short distances and then recover by jogging or walking.  Using both of these approaches.  I hope to get up to six miles by the end up three months.  I am going to introduce these elements slowly because I am almost 40 and the last thing I need is to take myself out by developing shin splints or an irritated IT band.

In my next post, I'll begin to outline my specific training plan and how I'm going to incorporate Highland Games throwing, strength endurance, and running all into one program.  Yes, it can be done.  It simply requires an accurate assessment of one's own abilities and the insight to streamline one's training goals.  Well, that and the humility required to take advice from one's friends who may know a little bit more than you about some things.

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