We have been receiving quite a few emails and direct app messaging regarding the number of miles some of you are getting in, either pounding the pavement or the treadmill. While the last thing we want to do is play Debbie Downer and drain your momentum, we do have to interject our coaching advice to ensure you avoid "running" down a perilous path.
However, there is much more to the physical performance realm than cardio alone. Strength, mobility, power, and flexibility all need to play an integral part of your training regime...and need to be done in a strategic, safe, and sustainable manner.
It may seem that doing extra cardio each week will help shed extra body weight. But the old adage is true: "You cannot outrun a diet of poor eating habits." (Speaking of eating habits, for those who are hankering for nutrition advice, stay tuned: we'll be addressing several aspects of our healthy and wealthy approach to food in future Whistle Stops in the very near future).
More importantly, substituting additional running in place of the three strength training days (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) of our BLOCK Base training program could lead to issues with your health and wellbeing down the road. None of us wants that!
Please take the time to read a chapter from Coach Albert Eiler's latest book, Tough Love Letters, "Marathon Marvin," as a reminder of what could happen with a one dimensional approach to training.
Marvin is about to turn 46. He’s married to Mary, is the father of three girls, and works in management for an area mechanical contractor. He’s in quite the funk presently, as he’s 45 pounds heavier than he was when he graduated high school, and he’s recovering from an infection following a knee replacement that became necessary due to exercise, of all things.
Marvin’s running career began in his mid-30s when he joined a local fitness center chain to help lose some fat and to get back into shape after he found himself with an unwanted 30 pounds and was given the official title of “dad bod” by his oldest daughter.
When he initially joined the gym, he followed the traditional fitness center script, clipboard in hand, moving from strength machine to strength machine, logging reps and sets, then finishing up with 10 minutes of walking on the treadmill.
After a couple of weeks, Marvin was feeling a little better about himself, but most of it was coming from the additional time he was spending on the treadmill. Marvin ran track in high school, so with each workout, he would instinctively up the time and speed controls on the “tread,” which eventually turned into a light running pace.
Not long after that, Marvin found himself skipping the strength machine circuit altogether and eventually working up to three miles on the treadmill three-to-four times each week. Between the running and drastically reduced calorie intake—eating mostly just fruits, salads and other vegetables—the weight was pouring off of Marvin, and he was feeling great!
Marvin went as far as to do some research online to help him design a running program that would get him prepared for a local 10k event. He followed this program to perfection, upping his running to a solid five days per week. And come race day, Marvin finished in the 40th percentile of his age group and felt as if he could walk on water!
After the sense of accomplishment of completing his first 10k, Marvin joined a running group where they met up six mornings per week to run anywhere from five to ten miles each session, and the group started running together in 10k races and even half marathons.
Marvin was amazed that within less than a year, he managed to lose 35 pounds and felt a sense of endorphin release every time he finished a run. He then set his sights on his first marathon.
His training reached an all-time high in volume as he prepared for his marathon, though he experienced a few setbacks along the way, with a minor hip injury and some plantar fascia issues in his feet. But Marvin was tough— “a runner”—always thinking back to his high school days of grinding it out, and managed to get past the injuries and complete his first marathon (of many to come) before his 40th birthday.
Over the next few years, Marvin went after his bucket lists of running events across the eastern seaboard, and he filled his office with his registration bib numbers and race day tee-shirt giveaways hanging on his wall. Marvin was at an all-time high emotionally and an all-time low in weight. He almost looked sickly, as he had lost 40 pounds.
By his early 40s, Marvin began to experience more significant injuries related to his running. He’s had to wear a boot for a stress fracture in his foot, had a couple of scopes of his right knee, and underwent a more serious surgery to repair a torn ligament. Marvin’s orthopedic surgeon urged him to discontinue his running, but Marvin thought to himself, “I’m an athlete” and continued to rehab those surgeries and injuries the only way he knew how, and that was to begin running again. Unfortunately, on his 45th birthday, as he was attempting to complete the nation’s most premier marathon, Marvin heard a large pop and felt a huge pain shoot up his leg.
Turns out the knee could no longer be scoped, and Marvin’s running career would come to a forceful end when it became clear a knee replacement was imminent.
Tonight, on the eve of his 46th birthday and a year after his fateful last marathon, Marvin is staring his “new normal” right in the face. He’s gained all the weight back that he lost, and more! And he just dealt with a risky infection following his knee replacement surgery that he’s lucky to have hurdled. He never thought it could happen to him, but now Marvin is fighting with the realization that his running career has crossed its last finish line, just like it had for so many of his 10K buddies.
Here’s the thing (and hearing this may hurt more than your latest knee surgery): during your running career you really were never all that healthy. Sure, your cardiovascular system was fit, as you were really good at running eight-to-nine-minute miles, mile after mile. But your lower extremities were taking an absolute beating, and you were running yourself into a world of dysfunction. In addition, you essentially lost a large amount of muscle tissue as you trained excessively with your running program, performed no resistance exercise, and didn’t come close to eating enough calories to support your running addiction.
So you are in a bad place right now, just as countless other runners have had to come to this realization for one overuse reason or another. But there’s good news if you’re willing to venture outside of your running mentality. (Well, at this point you have no choice.) Your situation can be reversed. And if you listen, you could actually reach a level of true performance that you have yet to experience. You’ll have to accept that your long-distance running career is over, but a world of strength, power, mobility, and various energy systems’ development awaits you, as well as a whole new approach to food, where you’ll consume “bountiful” amounts of food that Mother Nature provides in a plain and simple fashion.
Tomorrow you turn 46. Make your birthday the start of a new “race.” With a consistent, confident approach to strategic, safe, and sustainable training, you’ll be a new, high-performing, lean, healthy man by your next birthday!