I made the promise on this blog to limit my running blogging, and for the most part I've kept running topics to a minimum, however, I have some thoughts on running mileage and cross training, so here goes my second post on running within 2 weeks (probably a record for me).
There's been some discussion on Chad's blog (Chad, why doesn't your blog allow perma-links?) about running and cross training. A lot of people have weighed in during the last week (including me) about their opinions on how much running is necessary for the weekend warrior runner. The answer seems to boil down to, "Whatever works best for you." Well, that's obvious, so what works for me? (and of course what works for me may not work for you!)
By almost every count, 2007 was a great running year for me. I had several PRs (although not at the marathon distance, but blame a Nor'easter on my narrow miss of a PR at that one!) I improved at every other distance and overall felt very healthy. That was a big change from 2006 where I crashed in the fall and had 3 months where I physically felt awful, and had corresponding slow race times.
So what was the difference between '06 and '07? I actually ran a little more in '07, and biked a LOT more, so it wasn't a decrease in workouts that helped me. But I was smarter in WHEN I did them. I gave respect to cross training as an actual workout, and made sure that I didn't do too much activity each week. The cross training (biking, x-c skiing) was meant to assist with recovery, which allowed my runs to be more focused and occasionally, more intense. This helped greatly with speed.
Personally, I know I'd get burned out only running, and while that's the activity where I try to maximize my performance, running cannot take the place of the efficiency of a long bike ride, or the satisfaction of commuting by bike, or the quiet peace of an early morning ski. So I can use those other activities to pad my "base mileage". I may run "only" 50 miles/week, but with the additional output of easy bike rides, it's as if I'm adding a couple hours a week of easy runs, easily putting me into the 70-90 mpw zone.
To avoid the overtrain that tanked me in 2006, I keep track of all my mileage, and I make sure that my "equivalent running miles" never or at least rarely exceeds 80 mpw. I convert bike mileage at a 4:1 ratio. For example, if I bike 100 miles and run 50, that works out to be equivalent running mileage of 75 (50+100/4=75). Any more than that and my body will tell me to slow down. (X-C skiing I convert at 10 minutes of classic or 8 minutes of skate = 1 mile).
Obviously, this is very individual and everyone needs to find their own place that feels comfortable/safe/healthy. This is what I've found through trial and error. Could I push myself a little harder? Probably. But I haven't had a major running injury in years, and I haven't run my immune system down and been sick in over a year. And honestly, any more mileage and I'd be making compromises with the other, more important parts of my life: my family, my friends, my church, my work, and my other leisure pursuits. Running is great and I hope to make real improvements in 2008, but in order to balance running with my health (mental and physical), and my job (which is NOT subsidized by winning races), this is the strategy I employ. And cross-training is essential to that for me. I can see that it would be possible to only run and make these same improvements, but this is what works for me. And again, what works for me may not work for you!
I hope we all find what works for us! Best wishes to all on physical and emotional health in 2008!