long runs

Fast or Slow: How to Become a Better Runner in 30 Days

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#16 Fast or Slow

SNAPSHOT

Are you a fast twitch runner or a slow twitch runner?

DIGGING DEEPER


Fast twitch (FT) and slow twitch (ST) muscle fibers differ in “mitochondria density, capillary density, oxidative and Glycolytic enzyme activity, creatine phosphate stores, and contraction velocity.” (Magness, p.199) So basically FT fibers use more glycogen and ST fibers use fat for energy. If you want more power, FT fibers are your body’s pick. However, ST fibers can recover more quickly.

You start with a certain percentage of each, FT and ST fibers, but you can train to change the ratio. Yet, your tendency is one way or another. So knowing if you are more of a FT runner or ST runner, can impact the workouts that bring you success.

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Are YOU FT or ST?

There are many ways to find out the answer but the simplest way for you to get an indication right now is:

Are you known for your finish kick? Or do you push the pace, putting pressure on your competitor for the entire race?

Finish Kickers most likely have a higher percentage of FT fibers.

If you can run long at a faster steady pace than your race peers then your muscles may be composed more of ST fibers.

Why does ST vs FT dominance matter?

Because you can either enhance your performances or suffocate them.

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Fast Twitch Dominant Runners

You love feeling fast. With the wind flying through your hair and your legs strongly kicking back, you like pushing your lungs to capacity. You most likely have a higher percentage of fast twitch muscle fibers. Take advantage of that speed and preform a weekly speed training session (ex: cruise intervals, 2-3 minutes with longer standing recovery), however, hold yourself slightly back, leaving the race to dig your deepest and win. BUT, don’t drop the long run from your training. You do need to have aerobic training in order to run any race over 100 meters. Run a longer, slower run at your easy pace at minimum every 14 days, more often (every 7 days) during the first third of your training season.

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Slow Twitch Dominant Runners

You want to run forever. You’re the runner that wants to just keep going. In your last race you knew that if the race was longer you would have beat your competition. After the first third of your training season, save your long run for every 10-14 days. I know, that is crazy, miss your regular weekend long run! Well, you don’t need to totally miss it but you can instead lower the distance by a third and add in tempo training. Take your mile race time and add 1 to 2 minutes, that is your new tempo pace. After initial warm up miles, pick up your pace to tempo. Every 8 to 10 minutes go back to the easy pace for one minute. Continue until you have a mile left and enjoy an easy cool down.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

If you are fascinated by individualizing your training based on slow versus fast twitch dominance then get yourself a copy of Steve Magness’s book, The Science of Running. It is a heavy book, literally, but well worth the devotion to understanding running training. Get your highlighter ready!

SOLUTION

We all have a heart, lungs, and muscles and they work similarly, we still have our own fingerprint. Approach training as you would with building a house, using a standard blueprint but making adjustments to arrange your own unique home. Use an architect, coach or knowledgable training partners, to customize.

This 30-day series is a quest for me as a writer, coach, and runner. I promise to write about running for 30 days in a row. In doing so I intend to gain in knowledge and expression of running and daily life. My hope is that we all grow together.

UPDATE: Writing for you has helping me run more often and with more delight. I am digging deeper into my knowledge base and favorite books. You have responded that you love it! Write me or comment below and give me your feedback! What topic do you want me to cover? How has this blog impacted you? Do you have a story to share?

A Long Story about An Unplanned Long Run

SNAPSHOT

A long story with running, parenting, and life principles.

DIGGING DEEPER

An afternoon spring day called myself and two of my children on a short run/ride.  It was an opportunity to get them outside and exercise.  Being it was their first ride of the season, it wasn’t so difficult to persuade them to help me log a few running miles.

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On my son’s request, we ventured towards the high school lacrosse field, about 2 miles away.  Now, when I run alongside my biking kids I tend to keep a faster upbeat pace in order to keep up. So the first 2 miles were a bit of a shock to the body and I guessed the run would stay under 4 miles.  

However, once at the back fields of the high school, I found a new path that I had never run on.  Quickly distracted from the tougher pace, we ventured on through the town. My mind enjoyed the challenge of taking the kids to new places within the town and we found ourselves near the Aldi and Menards stores that we usually drive to. 

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As we passed the bank that was on my errand list, I regretted not having the check I needed to deposit. Next time on a tour of the town, I will fold the check into a baggie and store it in my Spibelt to reduce driving around town. 

Continuing on by taking different turns than before, we ended up passing the downtown stores. I always feel silly running through downtown sidewalks that usually are trodden upon by leisurely shoppers.

All this touring around the town with kids on bikes requires pauses at stop lights and slowing down as I guard them crossing streets. These breaks don't hinder my long runs because the body is still getting the miles or time on the feet.  Long runs most of the time should be run at a slow, easy pace. Importantly I want to model to my community a family outdoors exercising together.  Back in NY, I strived to count how many summer days I could spend time in my community without traveling by car.  My children have learned how to bike safely and know their way throughout their community. It is delightful to power your own transportation.

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Next up was the library and town park/beach.  My daughter quickly planned another run/ride that would include a stop at the library to read magazines and with a checkout limit of two lightweight books.  Once we reached the playground, I left the kids to chase each other around as I circled the park twice to add in another mile.  

Playground hopping throughout a run/bike has been a favorite combination for my children as they have been growing up with a runner mom.  With them on bikes and me by foot, we find all the playgrounds within miles.  They get 10 minutes to play as I circle each park.  Our neighborhood in NY was dotted with parks.  I love the company and watching them enjoy the playgrounds.  

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Before leaving the town park we plan our summer kayak trips across the lake to the beach, playground, and library.  Traveling throughout town using different modes of transportation opens up many new adventures and routes.  

With 9 miles on my watch, I knew we had to head back home, but the only way home was around the lake. The last two miles could feel long but I knew the route would go by quickly with a distraction. We stopped at the dam and watched the spring run-off thaw the frozen lake before it continues onto the Mississippi River a few miles downstream.  What makes a run like this fun for children is the stopping and enjoying the scenes and locations.  

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Since my purpose for the run had changed from a short usual run to a long run, it didn’t matter if it included a minute stop here and there because I was just going for a minimum running time amount.  

As we attempted to find a trail through a neighborhood that would create a safer route, I was able to include the kids in the decision making, which always makes the last mile seem a little easier.

At last, we were nearing our house when my watch said 1:25:00.  Since 5 more minutes would reach my long run minimum of 1:30:00, I didn’t skip a step as I passed by my driveway.  The kids couldn’t resist the freedom and fun of biking downhill and kept on the journey with me. 

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Fatigue was setting in and I was having to focus on just moving forward.  Glancing at my watch, I realized that I would end with 11 point something miles, which would not be acceptable.  So instead of the 1:30:00 planned finish, I declared that 12 miles was the new goal.  With a determined mindset, I worked hard up the hills.

The watch clicked from 11.99 to 12.0 and my body halted and with the rush of accomplishment and surge of tired muscle pain.  

This story is not an oddity in my normal life, as it happened quite similarly today on another Thursday afternoon run. 

SOLUTION

Running Principle I Hold

When there is a fork in the road or several options in front of you, take the longest, hardest, path. This is how you become tough physically and mentally.

Parenting Principle I Hold

Sprinkle fun and options into our family’s journeys. This is where memories and love grow.

Life Principle I Hold

There are many ways to the same destination. Putting aside unreasonable guilt, I have the freedom to tailor the paths within my daily life.

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