It’s been quite the week.
If you live in Missoula, or really anywhere in the northwest, you know we’ve had quite a bit of snow over the last several days. It’s been really beautiful to look at, but not so much fun to shovel. As someone who doesn’t own a car this is one of those times when I feel fortunate not to be tied to the idea of driving.
Regarding my training this week: I ran on Monday as planned, and my knee and ankle felt fine during and after my run. I also ran a mile further than my previous longest run. I ran again on Thursday and even though I felt like I was going slowly and carefully, in deference to the conditions, I went just as fast as I did the week before when I felt like I was putting forth greater effort.
Wednesday was the big learning day of the week, however, as that was the evening of Jeff Galloway’s free presentation at the Doubletree. It was really interesting and I’m very glad I went, in spite of the crazy weather and road conditions.
As a speaker, Jeff seems like an incredibly friendly guy who really loves running and wants to share that with as many people as possible. He seemed very focused on newbie runners in particular, which I appreciated since I am one. His presentation touched primarily on injury prevention and motivation, with a little bit on nutrition and a smattering of other topics. I’m honestly not sure what to make of his take on injury prevention. Part of it makes absolute sense to me but part of it seems completely counter intuitive.
First, he recommends preventing overuse injuries by not running faster or longer than you can, especially not faster. This makes a lot of sense to me, as someone who has been working at improving slowly over time rather than trying to push myself really hard. He didn’t exactly say that we should “listen to our bodies” but I think that he would have been comfortable with that idea. That aspect of his recommendations fits right in with what I’ve been doing since I started on this path back in June. I work at improving slowly over time but I don’t push myself too hard or overdo it. In that respect, I think the Galloway method is a perfect fit for me.
On the other hand, Jeff’s take on stretching baffles me and will require some research. He asserts that stretching causes injuries. He says the science backs him up on this, so clearly some research is required. I’ll admit that I’ve heard a few things about yoga related injuries lately but I keep wondering if these things are happening to people who push themselves too hard. When I do my stretches, many of which I’ve learned from yoga dvds, I don’t strain or push. I relax into the stretch and let the muscles release their tension slowly as I breathe. I’m curious to know if this is drastically different from what others are doing. Are people really striving and straining too hard and hurting themselves? Or does stretching actually cause injury? Until I’ve had time to do more research on the topic, I will probably be very conservative and careful about my stretching, but it’s hard not to do it when it helps reduce my soreness and just plain feels good.
As to motivation, I gather that he writes fairly extensively in his books about motivation and mantras. He suggested using mantras to take control of the mind when it is stressed and doesn’t want to go out and run. At this point, I’m not finding that to be a problem with respect to running, myself. Rather, I am finding that I get irritated and even upset or angry when I feel as though I can’t/shouldn’t run. On the other hand, I do struggle a bit with motivation to do my core training on non-running days, so perhaps I can use his techniques then.
With respect to nutrition, there were a couple of important things. First, whatever you find works for you during training, stick to that on race day. Race day isn’t the time to experiment. Honestly, I think that is sort of obvious, but maybe it’s not obvious until you think about it. Secondly, he says that during a long race like a marathon, the body needs water and sugar and can’t really digest anything else. Even electrolyte drinks, he says, can upset the stomach and cause the runner to puke. This will also require some research on my part before I’ll totally buy it. But make no mistake, the man has been running for longer than I’ve been alive, and competed in the Olympics two years before I was born, so my guess is that he’s figured a few things out along the way. I’m just a skeptic by nature, so I need to take some time to see what evidence there is to support his claims.
An audience member did ask about cross training and I found Jeff’s answer to be entertaining as well as informative. He said that first and foremost, exercise is good for you, and therefore we should all do whatever strength or cross training we want to do. However, distance running isn’t a strength sport. He said that there are only two exercises that really make any difference in distance running (besides running). He recommends crunches and weighted “running arms”. These strengthen the abs and the back and help the runner maintain his or her proper form.
When asked about running form, Jeff seemed to me to indicate that in most cases, the body will figure it out and that it’s best not to over-think it. I am not sure my body has figured it out yet, but on my Monday run, I did notice some interesting changes in my form, so perhaps I’m headed in the right direction.
By the end of Jeff’s talk, I was once again fortified in my belief that I can actually do this marathon thing. I need to be diligent about my training and I need to continue my policy of being very honest with myself, but I can do it. I really almost feel like the Galloway method was made for me and is a perfect match for my current mental state. I’ve got 169 days until I find out for sure.