Running: More vs better

Depending on the many different levels of performance, running relies better on diversified factors, and often has very little to do with the actual run. We frequently observe runners who seek to find the solution to improve their running performance through the increase on the running volumes. This would be too easy…

Firstly, to improve his/her running, each runner has to start by improving his/her ability to displace the body weight between each stance. Furthermore, and based on the duration and distance of a certain running event, the fact is that the runner will still develop a highly ability to be capable to maintain that capacity throughout the entire running route.

We refer to actual muscular strength, not aerobic endurance! This is why we state that an improvement on the strength levels at an early stage is important, in order to allow greater ease on body displacement. More than looking for increasing the running training volumes, hoping to get aerobic improvements that will allow a better run, we address the qualitative aspects of the runner’s training. And not the quantitative aspects, often translated into a large sum of kilometers!

The uprising idea of only what is extreme is good has been leading to the outbreak of a new kind of runners. Their concerns with qualitative aspects barely exist, as they are more concerned with translating those in the ability of hoarding more running kilometres. Sometimes, the idea that the extreme trainee runners becomes ordinary to the point that those are considered to be the real athletes, due to the training volumes they undergo.

Actually, most of ultramarathons or extreme trainee runners are the less skilled: poorer/weaker in physical skills and lower levels on running performance. However, these manage to undergo through very long runs under speeds almost mistaken as walking. This makes possible for their run to “survive” from a skill of prolonged suffering in fatigue conditions, sometimes extreme fatigue.

Our perspective or running comprises stimulus diversity, variety understanding, training to be practice, and betting on quality before simply non-stop running.

Nowadays, we seem to be focused on the development of a new class of runners: slower than ever and little worried in diversify their training. We seem more concerned with maintaining the running practice, as if preparing to beat a Guinness record on mileage.

In fact, this outlook is increasing, which often leads to young aged trainee runners adopt a running practice sustained on quantity, rather than quality. We are concerned with the runners who are choosing to limit their training merely to a continued stimulus of slow-twitch fibres, with high stand times, with aggravated and inefficient posture, strength levels increasingly reduced and greater chance to incur in injuries. Instead of choosing a much more diversified training, filled with utmost importance muscular stimulus.

My interpretation of such “ultra” events is of an eventual end point of a process, which should have started with much shorter distances. Why should any trainee runner with only few weeks or months of training get involved in a marathon, never having participated in a bunch of events of 5kms, 10kms or half marathon? Wouldn’t it be more rational to start with shorter distances and spend some time improving those distances times, before stepping into superior distances? The answer is simple… the truth is that who start by smaller distances will have the opportunity to improve and concern with important qualitative factors, namely: improve running technique, modify some running mechanical parameters as the support contact time; improve the efficiency of the impact; assure the implementation of healthy running postures; or even to improve his/her proprioceptive skills. Should this be the case, the diversity and quality of training contents must be a priority! The increase on competitive distances should be made in a way that would allow maintain these qualitative parameters, avoiding to training on bad mechanical parameters, bad technical and postural attitude, or even greater chance of incurring in injuries.

The number of trainee runners approaching us every day wanting to resolve problems resulting from bad options on “competitive” approach and training is quite frightening. Wrongly thinking doing more is better, these trainee runners end up with injuries hard to recover from, health problems related to volumes completely inadequate to their life profile, and the absence of rest they are not getting due to their professional and personal lives.

We are not better because we go running at night or daybreak. We are not better because we push for volumes that not even elite trainee runners push, and we certainly are not better if we adopt inadequate practices that may hinder our health.

Brains before brawn should be the guiding principle for a healthy running practice and ability to improve progressively and level the running performance. In order to do so, diversity of muscular stimulus, duly guided by an expert, will allow the benefits to overcome the actual running, and to extend to the daily routine of each trainee runner. For the major challenge the runner faces, previously to an “ultra-activity”, is to manage to define a training model that will bring him/her health, well-being and a physical condition that will provide him with long term benefits on his/her life to come, and that will only be accomplished, if our efforts go beyond the mileage on the road ahead…