What if You Get Sick During the Training Buildup Before a Race

This post is a response to a comment comprised of questions about dealing with illness and training for a marathon.

Getting sick during the training and buildup to a big race is common. Even world class athletes have seen their plans and performances disrupted by a poorly timed illness.

If it happens to you, what can you do to mitigate the negative impact on your training and race performance?

First Priority: Get Well as Soon as Possible

Second Priority: Maintain Fitness

Both of these are such broad topics that much can be said about them. To keep this post reasonable and useful, I’ll just deal with the general approach and some simple actions to take.

Common Causes

Most illnesses acquired during training for an event are infections from exposure to some pathogen in combination with susceptibility from a weakened immune system from the stress of a prolonged hard training plan. Most common disruptive illnesses are cold, flu or gastrointestinal (typically food poisoning).

You can minimize your exposure to pathogens by practicing good hygiene, but you can’t eliminate all potential exposure. Travel, crowds of people and eating at restaurants always expose you to pathogens that will be new to your immune system. The immune system’s lack of experience in how to deal with a particular pathogen can lead to sickness even if you are healthy and not weakened from the stress of intense training.

Treatment

If you do come down to a cold or flu what can you do to get well as quick as possible? Think:

Sleep, Sweat, Swill

Rest gives your body a break from stress and focus on healing and mounting an immune response to fight the infection. Stay warm to the point of sweating. A fever is one of your body’s tools to fight infection. Unless a fever is very high above 103 degrees F, avoid trying to bring it down. Let the fever do its thing which is killing (cooking) pathogens. Take saunas, bury yourself in blankets, turn up the thermostat in the house and wear lots of clothes. Drink a lot of good pure water and tasty remineralizing broths and soups. There really is something to chicken soup expediting the recovery from a cold or flu. Keep the elimination functions flowing by drinking more than usual. If you have loose stools from gastrointestinal infection, let it take its course. It is your body trying to get rid of the offending culprit. Make sure you drink a lot and replenish your gut health with fermented foods, sauerkraut, kumbucha, kefir, etc.

There are a lot of choices of remedies for treating infection. Some that show at least a little promise to shorten the lifetime of an illness are: Zinc, Echinacea, Goldenseal, Elderberry, Oregano Essential Oil, Vitamins A, B, C, D to name some. Ask anyone and they will have an opinion of their favorite remedy.

How to Maintain Fitness when Sick

The rest portion of addressing getting well, can be counterproductive to the second priority of maintaining fitness. So what can you do to stay fit while you are trying to heal?

Keep Moving

Laying or sitting around for long periods of times is the quickest way for your body to dump fitness. Form follows function. If you are not moving, your form (body) does not think it needs to keep all the muscle and metabolic overhead required for movement. Within a few days of laying or sitting around all day, fitness deteriorates significantly as muscles start to atrophy, red bloods cells are shed and new ones not produced. It does not take nearly as much activity to maintain fitness as it takes to build fitness. While you are trying to get well, keep a regular routine of walking around many times throughout the day and even perhaps do some very slow easy runs. Just make sure you are staying warm and not stressing yourself as that can prolong the illness. Avoid interfering with the first priority of getting well.

This post on micro dosing your training may be helpful.

When and How to Resume Full Training

Once you are well, you should be able to pick back up your training plan close to where you left off. Perhaps go back a week in the progression for every week or partial week you were laid up ill.

Whether to reschedule a race and abandon your plans or to go ahead and do a race as planned boils down to a blend of common sense and goals for that event. If you are still sick and vulnerable, it is not wise to do a challenging event. But if the race is important, hard to get into, a bucket list event, then the reasons for doing it may outweigh the lack of being prepared for it. If you don’t do it, you will never know how you could have done. There are cases of people surprising themselves with their performance after being forced to take some time off due to illness. Maybe, they needed a little rest.

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Can You Run Faster with the Nike Zoom Fly and Nike Vaporfly 4% Shoes?

This following post is a response to a recent question in the comment section of  the post on training for a 3 hour marathon.

Here is the original comment:

There is a lot of hype about people running faster marathons in the Nike Vapor Fly. Can a shoe help you run faster? Is it worth giving them a try to obtain a goal? Any recommendations regarding training for a sub 3 marathon using them.”

Yes, some shoes are certainly faster than others. Ignoring factors such as comfort and fit, in general, the lighter the shoe the faster and the more energy return the faster.

At the time of this writing, the Nike Vaporfly 4% appears to be the fastest running shoe available to the general public. How much faster? Nike claims 4% but it varies from person to person. There are probably some people that may not see much if any improvement in their race times and some that may see more than 4%. Take note that the world record for the women’s 100 mile run just got lowered by a whopping 7% by a woman wearing the Nike 4%. The only way to find out how much they help you is to experiment with them.

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

Are they worth trying them given the price tag of $150.00 for the Zoom Fly or $250.00 for the Zoom Vaporfly 4%? Those prices are not too far out of line compared to other top of the line running shoes. In the long run, the cost of the Nike may be even more as they lack durability and won’t last as long as other comparably priced shoes. For insight into durability, comfort, fit and performance, check out the reviews posted at: Running Warehouse and Nike (Zoom Fly) (Zoom Vaporfly 4%)

Nike Zoom Fly

Nike Zoom Fly

Comfort is probably a more important parameter when choosing what shoe to race and train in than speed – especially for long events. A shoe that causes you pain or injury outweighs any speed benefit. But if you are looking for the fastest running shoe available for long distance events, the Nike Vaporfly 4% appears to be it. The Zoom Fly is a close second being slightly different with less costly spring plate material.

Regarding marathon training using the Vaporfly:

Considering their cost and fragility, save them for race pace and faster training. Also, keep them limited to running on the road, track or treadmill. They are too fragile and unstable for trail running on rough and uneven surfaces.

Be aware that some sports science pundits have called for a ban of the Nike 4% because it gives an unfair advantage to those using them. They claim that the carbon fiber plate sandwiched in the thick foam sole constitutes a mechanical spring aid – a realistic claim.

The idea of using a spring plate in a running shoe to increase energy return has been around for decades. Nike is the first company to finally succeed in creating a viable commercial product utilizing this concept. By essentially taking a shoe with a thick midsole of very lightweight cushy foam (think Hoka Clifton 1) and embedding a stiff (but lightweight) spring pate inside the midsole, they stumbled upon a concept and combination of cushion and spring that really works. And we runners get to benefit from it!

Just remember, no shoe can do the work for you. You still have to train and put in the effort to run fast.

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Jae Gruenke – The Wise Woman of Running Form

There are lots of claims from various sources that you can change your running form and run faster and injury free. Most approaches are just someone’s opinion with little to no evidence or science behind the claims. Franchises and businesses have been built upon these shaky claims and fueled by peoples insatiable quest for the holy grail of running faster injury free.

Unfortunately, what science does show is that thinking about and focusing on your running form and making changes results in higher costs in energy expenditure compared to just relaxing and running the way that feels natural for you. Running is a natural movement best developed from experience and sensation. Thinking, analyzing and trying to run a certain way or focusing on how to move or forcing yourself to move a certain way while you are running typically makes things worse.

In my experience, you are better off saving your time and money by avoiding any canned advertised approaches to running form or technique. If you can’t resist the temptation of working on your running form, then the only running form expert that I would recommend is Jae Gruenke who hosts The Balanced Runner. Her analysis and approach to running technique and running form is more experiential and sensorial combined with a logical analysis of whole body movement. I like her attitude that You don’t Need a Method.  I’ve found her analysis of the various running styles of the world’s greatest marathon runners enlightening and entertaining.

Check it out these examples:

Nike Sub 2: Kipchoge Tadese Desisa

Chicago 2017: Rupp Kirui Dibaba Hasay

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My All-Time Favorite Trail Running Shoe: the Original Hoka Clifton (Circa 2014)

My personal favorite trail running shoe of all-time is the Original Hoka One One Clifton (Circa 2014).

My Current Collection of Original Hoka Cliftons

My Current Collection of Original Hoka Cliftons

Over my lifetime, I’ve used a lot of different types, brands and styles of shoes. Some were excellent trail running shoes and were memorable like the Nike Air Terra and Adidas Feet You Wear from the early 1990’s. The Nike Zoom Trail from the mid 2000’s was and is still a favorite (probably my second favorite of all-time). But the Original Hoka Clifton from 2014 is my all-time favorite.

The Original Hoka Clifton is light, comfy, responsive, flexible and protective. It makes running fun. The only downsides are they are fragile (not lasting very long) and their traction is lacking on slippery terrain. Granted they are intended for the road not the trail so their sole is not designed for grip. As a road shoe, I interestingly find them less appealing feeling overly soft and mushy on the roads. Yet somehow the Clifton has a certain magic feel on the trail. Maybe there is a resonance or synergy between the shoe’s softness and soft trail surfaces. The combination just works.

Yes, Hoka has a trail version of the Clifton, the Challenger, but it is heavier and has a dead feeling compared to the Clifton. There are newer versions of the Clifton (2,3,4) that address some of the lack of durability issues of the original Clifton. Unfortunately, each newer version is heavier and takes away some of the magic feeling of the original. Another sorry tale (Saga of the Skechers GoRun) of how a shoe company ruins a great shoe with so called improvements in succeeding versions.

You can still find a few pairs of the original for sale at outlets and resellers, but soon they all will be gone. Until something else comes along, I will be cherishing running in my remaining Cliftons until they all wear out.

Fun Ginger Runner reviews of the Clifton from the original through version 4:

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How to Train and Run the Bridger Ridge Run in 4 Hours

The most popular post on this Blog is a minimalist approach to training for a 3 hour Marathon. In my experience, a 3 hour Marathon is equivalent in effort and training commitment as a 4 hour Ridge Run. The target audience for a post about doing a 4 hour Ridge Run is very small and localized compared to a global audience of those interested in doing a 3 hour Marathon. Nevertheless, there has to be at least a handful of people interested in a running a Four Hour Ridge Run.

Now if your goal for the Ridge Run is different than finishing in 4 hours, don’t worry, you can also scale the following training plan for other goals besides 4 hours. Start by adjusting the typical splits in the table below by the ratio of your goal time divided by 4. For example, if your goal is 8 hours, double all the splits. If your goal is 6 hours, multiply all the splits by 1.5 (6/4). If your goal is 3 hours, multiply all the splits by 0.75.

Prerequisites

Same as for a 3 hour marathon (19 minute 5K capability and history of at least 1 year of 3 hours or more per week of running). Any changes to this would be the addition of a history of at least a year of some of those 3 hours a week of running being done on rocky trails.

Typical Splits Required for a 4 Hour Ridge Run

Below are some suggested splits and elapsed times for different sections of the Ridge Run course. Times are in Hours and Minutes. With the exception of Sacajawea Pass, all the locations correspond to prominent points and aid stations. I’ve included the split to Sacajawea Pass as a check; mainly to make sure you do not start out too fast. It is easy to start fast, but you can pay for it later in the race with premature fatigue. Save yourself for the runnable sections later in the race.

  • Location                    Split      Elapsed     Theme
  • Sacajawea Pass         0:25      0:25           Uphill
  • Sacajawea Summit  0:15       0:40           Uphill
  • Ross Pass                   0:45      1:25            Downhill
  • Bridger Bowl             0:45      2:10            Uphill
  • Baldy                           1:10      3:20            Rolling
  • Finish                         0:40      4:00           Downhill

These are guideline times. If you are a better climber than descender, adjust those sections that are mostly uphill a bit faster and the downhill sections slower. Likewise, if you are better at bombing down the descents, adjust those sections that are mostly downhill a bit faster. Everyone is different with regards to skills and what sections they will find challenging slow or easy and fast.

Durability, Intensity, Specificity

The unique characteristics of the Bridger Ridge Run of rocky steep terrain put extra demands on your abilities as a runner and your body. This shapes the way you must prepare and train if you are to have a successful experience come race day. Building durability and toughness to handle the steep ascents and descents is imperative. So is the specificity of training at race pace on the course itself. High intensity training helps build fitness, speed and strength.

This is a minimal or just enough training plan. It is specifically focused on the goal of a 4 hour Ridge Run. It emphasizes training in the Bridger Mountain Range on the Bridger Ridge Run course. If you live near the course, that works. If you don’t live nearby, then you need to find some suitable terrain that closely matches the rocky steep terrain of the Bridger Range.

This plan consists of just 3 different training sessions that are repeated each week. Always give yourself at least one day off between these challenging workouts. They progress in duration over the course of the 14 week preparation period to race day. Given that the race is the Saturday after the second Friday in the month of August, 14 weeks before that is around the beginning of May. If you are serious in preparing for and training for the Ridge Run plan on starting your tailored Ridge Run training the first week of May.
Besides the 3 targeted sessions presented here, you should stay active every day, but at a low intensity. Doing more hard training each week than what is presented here, may lead to injury by overdoing it and compromising your training and goal.

Durability Training – Long Duration and Downhill Trail Running

Once a week do a steep trail run. Start with 20 minutes up and 10 minutes down. Build up to 1:20 up and 40 down by week 7. Hold that duration till week 12 and cut it in half the next two weeks.

  • Week    Up         Down
  • 1            0:20      0:10
  • 2            0:30      0:15
  • 3            0:40      0:20
  • 4            0:50      0:25
  • 5            1:00      0:30
  • 6            1:10       0:35
  • 7            1:20      0:40
  • 8            1:20      0:40
  • 9            1:20      0:40
  • 10          1:20      0:40
  • 11          1:20      0:40
  • 12          1:20      0:40
  • 13          0:40     0:20
  • 14          0:20     0:10

For those that live in Bozeman, the M to Baldy trail is very convenient and ideal for this training session. A good estimate of your Ridge Run potential is to double your round trip M to Baldy time. So if you can get all the way up to the top and back down Baldy in 2 hours (1:20 up 0:40 down, approx. 4 miles 4000 feet elevation gain), you are on track for a 4 hour Ridge Run. Your average pace going up is 20 minutes per mile. That is 3 miles an hour and may seem slow, but it is a steady power walk considering the average grade is 20%. You end up climbing 1000 feet every 20 minutes. Likewise, descending 4 miles in 40 minutes is 10 minutes per mile. This also may appear rather slow for running downhill, but the technical nature of this trail makes running 10 minutes per mile seem fast and challenging.
Going up and down Baldy once every week, is redundant and boring, but it is a great workout and a terrific gauge of your fitness. I’ve known several people that employed going up and down Baldy multiple days each week as successful Ridge Run training.

Intensity Training – Hill Repeats

Set aside one day a week to do hill repeats. Consistency is helpful so pick a day of the week and a time and stick with it. Choose a steep but runnable hill that takes about 3 minutes to get up. Take 3 minutes recovery by jogging back down to the bottom. Repeat.

Start with 2 the first week and build up to 10 by the 10th week then decrease back to 2 the week of the race. These workouts build strength, power and aerobic capacity. Run them hard at nearly max effort. When you get to the top, you should be gasping for breath, glad you made and looking forward to recovering on the way down.

  • Week    # of Repeats
  • 1           2
  • 2           3
  • 3           4
  • 4           5
  • 5           6
  • 6           7
  • 7           8
  • 8           9
  • 9          10
  • 10        10
  • 11          8
  • 12         6
  • 13         4
  • 14         2

You should be able to find a suitable hill on the trails near Bozeman such as Sypes Canyon, the M or Bridger Bowl. You can also use an incline treadmill. 10% grade at 7.5 mph or 15% grade at 6 mph are some possibilities. Set the incline and pace combination so 3 minutes represents about as long a time as you can last. Recover in between the uphill portions with 3 minutes jogging at 0% grade (4 to 5 mph).

Specificity Intensity – Race Pace on a Section of the Course

This workout consists of running a section of the course at race pace. The goal of this workout is to not just get accustom to running at race pace on the course, but to integrate it into your comfort zone and skill set so it becomes habit and second nature. Given the technical nature of the rocky Ridge Run course, this will also build coordination and skill with your footing. Spending so much time on the course gives you the opportunity to really get to know it so you will have no excuses for going off course.

In most cases, you must combine this workout with some easy running or walking to get to or get back from the section of the course run at race pace. Keep the race pace portion of these workouts under 2 hours and the total time out including the approach and return under 4 hours.

The progression builds to mid-July where you will do the first half of the course (Fairy Lake to Bridger Bowl) and the second half of the course (Bridger Bowl to the M) at race pace. Space these maximal sessions out by at least a week. The progression then backs off so that you do shorter sections of the course as race day nears.

Following are some training session suggestions. Your choices in May and June may be limited by snow. Many of the sessions will require either accessing the course by hiking up to the top of Bridger Bowl or descending from the top of Bridger Bowl to get down off the course. Some require doing an out and back on a section of the course. It is also possible to access the course at Ross Pass.

  • Week    Description
  • 1            Hike up to Snow Level on Baldy from M Trailhead, Run Race Pace Back Down
  • 2            Hike up to Snow Level on Baldy from M Trailhead, Run Race Pace Back Down
  • 3            Hike up to Saddle Peak from M Trailhead, Run Race Pace Back Down
  • 4            Run Race Pace from Ross Pass to top of Bridger Bowl
  • 5            Run Race Pace from top of Bridger Bowl to Baldy
  • 6            Run Race Pace from Fairy Lake to Sacajawea Summit
  • 7            Run Race Pace from Foot Hill Trail below Sacajawea to Ross Pass
  • 8            Run Race Pace from Sacajawea Summit to Ross Pass
  • 9            Run Race Pace from Fairy Lake to top of Bridger Bowl
  • 10         Run Race Pace from top of Bridger Bowl to M Trail Head
  • 11          Run Race Pace from Ross Pass to top of Bridger Bowl
  • 12         Run Race Pace from Fairy Lake to the Top of Sacajawea
  • 13         Run Race Pace from base of Baldy to the Finish
  • 14         Run Race Pace down from the top of the M to the Finish

Snow and Course Accessibility in May and June

Depending on the year, there still could be lots of snow in the Bridgers in May. This limits the ability to train on most sections of the course until June or even July. The road to the start at Fairy Lake usually does not open until beginning of July regardless of the snow pack or lack of. Until then, you may be limited to doing the long course specific runs in other places or on the M to Baldy section that tends to melt off the earliest. Until July, you may have to hike, run or bike up a portion of the road to Fairy Lake to access the trail up to Sacajawea.

Fairy Lake Trail Head in June

Fairy Lake Trail Head in June

There is a section of the course between Bridger Bowl and Saddle Peak that tends to hold snow. It is on the west side of the Bridgers above the Bostwick canyons and is a steep side hill. Traversing this section when covered in snow requires caution and will slow you down well below race pace. Most of the rest of the course, even if covered in snow does not pose the same exposure threat requiring as much caution.

Since the race takes place in August, snow is rarely an issue on race day. Occasionally (last time was 2005?) the course will be graced with fresh snow but no old snow pack. So for specificity’s sake, it makes sense to stick to training on portions of the course that are free of snow.

Training Logistics

Since the Ridge Run course is point to point, training on the course will inevitably require organizing a drop off and pick up at specific locations along the course. You can drive right up to the Start at Fairy Lake and also the Finish at the College M. You can drive within an hour or so walk of the top of Bridger Bowl and also Ross Pass. So having a training partner to stage shuttle vehicles with or a willing spouse to drop you off or pick you up is essential to training on all the portions of the course. Otherwise, you will have to retrace your steps which can force you to be out for a longer time than ideal.

There are some informal training groups that organize running at least the first half and second half of the course during the summer. A good resource and networking connection for this is the Bozeman area running club, Wind Drinkers.

If all else fails, leave a comment here and I will give you some individuals to contact. Plan ahead, as I only respond to comments on this blog a couple times a month.

Fueling

If you are highly endurance trained and can run for many hours before your energy fades, then you do not need to worry much about fueling. There are many individuals that have done the Ridge Run under 4 hours without any fuel whatsoever. On the very first Ridge Run (1985), Alex Lowe told me he had no water or fuel at all. He finished 2nd in well under 4 hours. There were aid stations that first year, but none were setup before the fastest runners went by. The winner the first year did have candy pinned to his shirt, but did not share any with Alex.

My first few Ridge Runs were done with little to no thought to fueling. I mainly just drank a bit of water. The first part went fast (I was a much faster runner 25 years ago) but typically around Saddle Peak (between Bridger Bowl and Baldy), I would fade significantly as I ran out of energy. My fastest elapsed times to Ross Pass (1:05) and Bridger Bowl (1:50) date from the early nineties, but I would lose a lot of time after that and typically finish in 4:15. The first time I broke 4 hours was the first time I forced myself to refuel as I drank nearly a half-gallon of Gatorade at the Bridger Bowl aid station. It prevented me from fading in the later portions of the course.

I’m now much slower, but wiser as I have learned to strategically fuel. My most recent time as an old man in his late 50s is about nearly the same that I ran it in as a young man in his mid 30’s. Now, my fueling goal is to consume about 800 calories total during the race. That is about 200 calories per hour. This works for me. It is enough to avoid running out of energy but not enough to cause stomach distress.

Over the years, I have learned to drink between 64 and 96 ounces of water during the race depending upon the weather (heat). This is 16 to 24 ounces an hour. Again, this is typical. Some people can get by on a lot less. Some need a lot more. My preference is to carry a 24 ounce water bottle and refill as needed at aid stations.

Other Resources

There are many older posts on this blog discussing gear such as shoes, clothing and packs. Start by looking here. Unfortunately, many of my favorite pieces of gear are no longer sold. There are items currently sold that are similar.

 

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Skechers GOTrail Review (2016 Version)

Most recently, I have been running in the Skechers GOTrail. It is the version that came out in early 2016.

Skechers GOTrail

Skechers GOTrail

Pure speculation, but it appears Skechers will not be offering it in 2017. (Note: There is a rumor of a GOTrail 2 coming in mid 2017.) As of early 2017, the 2016 version is still available in some stores and at discounted closeout prices. I’m bringing this up because it would make a good shoe for the Ridge Run. It offers just enough protection and grip for rocky trail running, without giving up comfort and flexibility.

Check out this review:

 

History of the GOTrail

The original Skechers GOTrail (2012-2013) was a very comfortable shoe for walking around in, but it did not work that well as a trail running shoe. It was replaced with the GOBionic Trail (2014) that turned out to be a great “minimalish” trail shoe being comfortable, flexible, grippy, and light weight. For me, the GOBionic Trail did not quite have enough protection to use on the Ridge Run.

Skechers discontinued the GOBionic line quite some time ago. Skechers has a tradition of introducing new models yearly and discontinuing the old. Or if they keep a model around and change it calling it a new version, it changes so much it might as well be a different model as it loses all the characteristics of the old model. The original GORun worked well for me. The new ones I dislike. My few pairs of original GORuns are getting pretty worn out, but I still love running in them.

Original Skechers GORun Getting Worn

Original Skechers GORun Getting Worn

Hopefully Skechers will do another production run of the 2016 GOTrail or something like it. They currently offer a GOTrail Ultra that is similar to the GOTrail, but the Ultra is a bit squishy and unstable as it has a much thicker softer midsole. It is also noticeably heavier.

Here is a picture of a rumored GOTrail 2 coming in mid 2017:

Skechers GOTrail 2

Skechers GOTrail 2

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Microdosing Training to Enhance Adaption to Training

Can you improve fitness by injecting frequent small doses of activity into your training regime?

I am going to steal the term “microdosing” from the drug culture and apply it to training.

Microdosing training is the concept of improving fitness gradually by employing small but frequent bouts of activity that do not tear the body down enough to require large amounts of rest and recovery. Yet the microdosed training sessions provide just enough exercise stimulus to produce adaption and gains in fitness.

The term microdosing (Micro Dosing) is more typically associated with the unethical (usually illegal) practice of taking small amounts of drugs to improve performance.

Examples being:

The concept of microdosing training or utilizing the minimum effective dose of exercise to obtain a desired training result without causing adverse side effects is not new, but the concept is rarely utilized in practice. This Blog’s most popular post is a minimum effective dose approach to training for a 3 hour marathon. To my knowledge,  no one has used the term “microdosing” when applied to training.

Seek Adaption to Training over Recovery from Training

The goal of training is to condition the body to perform better in subsequent training sessions and future competitions. Unfortunately, sometimes we overdo a training session and end up so sore and broken down that we require an extended period of time to recover and just get back to where we were before the hard training session.

A common meme parroted by athletes, even professionals that ought to know better, is: “there is no such thing as over training just under recovery.”

The thoughts behind this misguided phrase are twofold. First: to motivate to train harder. Second: to emphasize the importance of rest and recovery. The reality is you can overdue training to the point that you can’t train anymore and are forced to take some extended time off and recover. In fact, it is possible to overdue just a single training session to the point of muscle breakdown (even Rhabdomyolysis) resulting in a severe case of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

The concept of needing to “Rest and Recover” implies in itself that you are broken and have overdone it. Recovery also implies getting back to where you were. It does not imply adaption and progress. Getting sore from a training session and being forced to take time off to recover is counterproductive.

By overdoing training sessions, it is possible to get trapped in a cycle of repeated breakdowns and forced recovery. The result is that you do not adapt and make much progress.

Break the Cycle of “Breakdown and Recovery”

Instead seek Adaptation and Incremental Improvement

To escape the rut of breakdown and recovery, avoid training to the point where you end up with soreness (DOMS). Seek to end training sessions energized; feeling like you could do a little bit more. Avoid DOMS. Avoid getting sore. Also space training sessions often enough, that your body does not detrain and loose fitness in the down time between training sessions.

Conditioning the Quadriceps Muscles – a Useful Example of Using Microdosed Training

Just how does one employ microdosing of training to maximize adaption and minimize delays due to needed recovery?

Training the quads for the steep downhill rigors of the Ridge Run is an illustrative example of how to employ microdosing to maximize adaptation without setbacks from soreness.

Every year as I start training and preparing for the Ridge Run, I face the task of conditioning my quads to make them impervious to soreness from all the downhill running on the Ridge Run course. Trail runners sometimes affectionately refer to this process as “seasoning” the quads.

Downhill running put the quadriceps into eccentric loading. Unless properly conditioned, training sessions that incorporate eccentric loading will lead to soreness (DOMS) forcing one to take days off to recover before further training can commence.

There is lots of opinion on how often to add downhill running session to your training to keep your quads conditioned and immune to soreness. Some say as little as one downhill session every two weeks is all it takes. In my experience, I need at least two and better three steep downhill running/hiking sessions per week! If I take more than two days in a row off from downhill training, I will end up getting sore from the next downhill session – putting me back in the breakdown/recovery trap.

In my opinion, doing downhill sessions with two days break in between (every 3 days) would be the minimum. This does not fit well into a weekly schedule, so I personally have adopted a three session a week routine of doing at least some downhill running every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Frequent short training sessions that leave you energized are better for adaption than occasional long sessions that leave you sore and broken.

In years past, I have gotten trapped in the Breakdown Recovery trap by overdoing the first downhill running sessions of the season. After going up and down the M trail, my quads would be sore for days after the workout. The soreness would prevent me from doing any training for a few days as I recovered. After the soreness went away, I would do another session but the same thing would happen.  I would get sore again and be forced to take time off to recover.

After years of trial and error, I have learned that I need to start with shorter sessions and avoid blowing out my quads and the getting sore part of training. My first couple steep sessions of the season are just hiking up to the top of the M and back down. I think that is about 800 feet of elevation gain over about ¾ mile. As the weeks go by, I will increase the duration of workouts. A common workout is to go up the M trail to a point above the trailhead reached in 40 minutes and then run back down to the bottom in 20 minutes for a total workout time of one hour. Eventually, I will be able to go up from the M trailhead to the top of Mount Baldy (4000 feet elevation gain over 4 miles) a couple times a week without getting sore.

Microdosing also Means doing Little Bits of Activity Every Day – Even on Rest and Recovery Days

Think: Active Recovery.

Do not erase your workout gains with passive rest.

Avoid being totally sedentary on your recovery days.

Being sedentary is the scourge of adaptation to training. You can erase the potential gains of a training session by sitting around all day on your rest days. Instead, make sure you get up and actively move several times throughout the day. If you have a desk job, get up every hour and walk for a few minutes. Better yet, do some jumping jacks, burpees, skip rope or run in place for a few minutes. Activity keeps reinforcing the signal to your body to adapt to physical stress and training. Sitting around for a day or more quickly turns off the adaptation process.

For more ideas on the theory of injecting frequent small doses of activity into your training plans and rest days, check this podcast out.

Bottom Line

  • End your workouts before you damage your muscles resulting in post training soreness (DOMS) needing extended rest and recovery.
  • Keep Moving. Inject frequent bouts of activity into your day; even on recovery days.
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