Experiments With Running & Obstacle Courses
A few weeks ago I ran the IMPI Challenge. It’s a 13Km run held each year in South Africa. This is how I prepared for the IMPI Challenge with absolutely NO RUNNING! 😀
“The challenge combines trail running with an adventure style obstacle course. Impi is the biggest social, fun but challenging event on the calendar.” More Info. For those of you who dont know, you do not need to prepare for endurance/endurance based events with atypical approaches that leave you injured and ignoring pain.
I often come across many kinds of endurance athlete’s who believe the old adage that the ‘time in the saddle’ is the most important part of running a race. While this approach can satisfy a large proportion of the the concerns everyday people have about race prep it is very rare that everyday people do well with this approach.
Long hard rides and runs are considered a mark of the seasoned athlete but does that apply to the average joe? Not really. Does the sport continue to create more records without the investment of time this analogy alludes to? Of course not.
The point that I am making is that general preparatory training can benefit an amateur racer far more than an elite simply because Strength has the greatest performance transfer to any given category of athlete. Further to this performing in any endurance event does imply greater rate of impact on joints and ligaments. Without a thorough assessment it is easy to underestimate the degenerative nature of repeated jarring and bad gait which can seriously affect your long term health!
So What Would Be The Best Approach?
If you are a normal bloke or gal who wants to prep quickly and easily for a race what is the best way? What would be the minimum required effort to perform the race with ease? I know that since I am not by any means ‘cardio fit’ that does not mean you need to use the same approaches other people do.
Lets break down the two most common misunderstandings associated with performance:
MYTH 1#: Your VO2 Max is more important than Strength:
Below you will find some of the reading from the Heart Rate Variability testing that I did prior to race day. As you can see the variations in waking RHR are consistent with what you might expect to see in an intermediate trainee with a good VO2 Max.
What is important to note is that I did this with no running… Friday 1o Oct has my RHR at 34 BPM. By all accounts ready for race day 🙂
MYTH #2: More Running/Cardio Is Always Better
So on average, most people follow the logic that the best way to prepare for a marathon is to run. Why?
What if I told you that this is almost in all cases this is the complete opposite of good advice. In this particular case you are telling me that all people can just ‘run’ and that 2-4 runs per week is going to have the best overall effect on race day. Some people even graduate the distances they run over the course of 4 weeks with no attention to how their times improve…
You can see where I am going here.
First you need to:
- Have your feet, hips and gait assessed.
- Learn how to run and breath correctly
- Purchase the correct shoes and orthotics should you need them
- Implement a system of metrics than can improve your times (a training partner is a great commitment device)
Doing the complete opposite of this is exactly how I pulled my Hamstring and dislocated my knee a few years ago while preparing for the PRMC (Potential Royal Marines Course in London). When you are young and your joints are healthy there is no need to pay attention to ankle mobility or breathing, life is good. When your older these mistakes do not pay off and I reiterate this point with the image below.
Myth #3 Strength Training Cannot Improve Running, Jumping or Endurance
Postural abnormalities form some of the biggest challenges facing new and old trainees. When performing any sport a variety factors play a role in how well you can perform. Looking closely at a movement screen can really paint a picture of where you leak the most energy when fatigued. These areas are the areas that will make the biggest difference on game day.
Unfortunately many top athletes presume that pain can and should be a part of high performance. While grit most certainly plays a role in many endurance sports it is completely unnecessary to ignore pain in novice trainees. A movement screen can help you to perform pain free because healthy movement patterns transfer force better in the same way that a bigger engine (stronger muscles) can improve deceleration, power to weight ratio and peak power output.
#1 Pick The Right Shoe!
1) Kettlebell training can improve your running without risking long mileage and overuse injuries.
2) Unilateral leg and arm training can give you the edge because Strength training recruits more muscle fiber allowing for greater contractile capacities during long distance events.
3) Running without seeking the correct footwear, gait and postural analysis will injure your body when it is fatigued. Don’t make the same mistake I did…