Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why Runner's World Frustrates Me

I'll be honest - I still like to read Runner's World.  I mean, I love running, so why wouldn't I want to read about a sport I am so passionate about?  But sometimes I just have to shake my head at some of the things I read in there.  And while I feel like there are better running sources out there on the web, I try to take in as much information as possible, so I don't discriminate resources - I'm an equal opportunity learner!

For the average runner who hasn't read a ton about running, science, physiology, training techniques of running experts, etc, many people use Runner's World as a source of reference for training approaches.  I mean, there are some very useful resources there, but I can't help but wonder sometimes.  While I've written before about my feelings on how people all too frequently take a workout from a magazine and do it because they read it, I feel that this topic needs to be repeated and reiterated.  You should only do this after you have considered how it fits into your training.  When you read a workout, whether it is from someone's blog, a magazine article, or described by some pro as being "the single key reason they won their race", you need to take a step back and be a smarter athlete and consider the following:

- Am I properly trained for that workout? 
- Am I trying to peak or am I still building my base? 
- Where does this workout fit into my current plan and how will it impact the other workouts I have planned?
- Will this workout help me achieve the goal of this part of my training or am I just doing it because it sounds cool?

But back to my original reason for writing this post - reasons why I shake my head at some of the things I read.  In this July's edition, there is a piece on doubles (running twice in a day).  In it, the article states:

"If you are currently running 5 days a week for at least 40 minutes a day, you're ready for doubles."

I hope you just shook your head after reading that too.  I'm pretty sure many runners run 5 days a week for 40 minutes a day - but I would NEVER recommend anyone start doing doubles at that point.  Why?  Well, multiple reasons:

1) Injury risk - running twice always creates more potential for injury.  Many people run "easy" at a harder effort than easy should be.  So when you add in a 2nd "easy" run as part of your double, you end up running it a bit harder, therefore creating additional stress to your body.  Some stress = good.  Too much stress = injury.  Focus on adding quality to your single run workouts first, which would be more than sufficient to give you comparable stress.  I promise that you can continue to add quality to workouts for a long time, before you need to start considering doubles.

2) Time - In order to run twice a day, you need to create more time in your day (duh!) - something many people have difficulty doing.  It's hard enough finding time for one workout, let alone two!  Within less time than you'd spend on two runs, you could run a quality workout and add in a focused core or stretching session.  For most people, you'll get more benefit from this 2nd strengthening/stretching session than going out for an "easy" 3-4 miles. 

3) Mileage - Most "experts" don't recommend you begin doubles until you have maximized your ability to handle single workouts.  Again, for most people running 5 days a week for 40 minutes, I can assure you that they have not maximized their handling of single workouts.  For example, Pfitz recommends doubles only after your mileage exceeds 55 miles/week for 5k runners or less and up to 75 miles/week for marathoners.  That's a far ways away from 5 days of 40 minutes per run!  Both of the above reasons (injury risk and time) are two such factors as to why you should be at much higher mileage before considering doubles.  Another, is that you get greater quality stress from a single run on a given day than something close to that distance broken up into two runs.

Now, is there a benefit and reason for doing doubles?  Absolutely!  It helps boost fitness, enhance running economy, and increase your weekly mileage - all of which will help you become a better runner.  In fact, nearly all elite runners incorporate doubles in one fashion or another.  But that brings me back to my reiterated point from above - just because they do it, doesn't mean you should do it.

In conclusion, when reading training advice from any source, make sure you consider the important factors listed above before just throwing your existing plan out the window in favor of a new concept.  Always changing approaches and never sticking to a plan will rarely result in exceeding the goals you set when you started training in the first place.  And worst of all, it may result in injury.

Train smartly and consistently and you will improve!


BMoney said...

Excellent post, I agree with you about runners world. Their articles seem to make people think they can do more than is safe.

To echo your post in some way, I was reading part of Macca's book when he talks about having multiple workouts in a day. He says he'll get a quality main workout and if he doesn't feel great for the second workout he won't do it rather than have a crappy second workout.

Rob Smith said...

i have to say i second this. i get annoyed whenever i read an article that i feel i could have written better myself from what i have managed to glean from the internet and personal experience. i've only been running for a few years, so it shouldn't be too difficult to know more than me about it.

regarding the dubious advice they give - i think it is a bit inevitable that it is full of generalizations that some people, unfortunately, will implement to the letter. on the double-up issue, i would say that you shouldn't increase your volume by more than 10% a week, that you should listen to your body and that, more than looking at just volume, you need to look at volume x intensity.

you'd think that there wasn't a lot to say about running as an outsider. but the fact that they DON'T say much new is because they have to keep their sponsors sweet and can't bang on about barefoot running for example

Hamlin said...

I am beginning to feel the same way about RW. If you are going to do doubles you might as well do a CrossFit Endurance workout 2-3 times a week.


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