Running on Empty
How many times have you been running a race and lost your energy before you got to the finish line? For example, say you are running a half marathon, keeping a nice-quick consistent pace until mile 9. All of a sudden you are out of breath, your pace slows, and you are wishing this thing was over. It is probably not because you cannot run fast. It is the lack of endurance is what is holding you back. This applies to runners of any distance, 5k to marathon. To prove my point, go to a local running track and run 100 meters as fast as you can. Take a look at your time. Say it took you 20 seconds-that is about a 5:30 min/mile. Even if it took you 30 seconds-that is an 8 minute mile. Both of these are fast! So, running fast is not the issue. The problem is you cannot maintain that pace for the duration of your race. So, you are fast!
So, now that we established that you do have some speed, you’ve got to increase your ability to maintain that pace. (Well, maybe not a 5:30/mile, but quicker than what you are wanting to run now). How do you increase your ability to keep a faster pace? The short answer is to increase your endurance. We compete in endurance sports, right? Is there a scientifically proven way to improve your endurance? Absolutely! Let me explain…
The best way I can describe this is to relate it to a car… well, two of them. Say both cars can drive 70mph. Awesome! That is pretty fast. Unless you are one of those law breakers….These cars are going to race a total of 100 miles. Car A has a gas tank with the ability to drive over 300 miles. Car A should be fine to drive 70mph the entire distance. Car B only has a gas tank able to drive 30 miles at 70mph. See the problem? Both cars are equally fast, but Car B has a tiny gas tank and will run out of fuel before the end of the race. The only way Car B will make it is to really slow down. Sound familiar? Maybe your last race? Perhaps you “ran out of energy” or “ran out of gas” or “got tired”? Chances are you are a Car B. The bad news is that you have a small gas tank. The good news is your gas tank can grow!
This gas tank is also called your “aerobic engine”. Without diving too deep into the science, aerobic means “with oxygen”. During this aerobic state, your body uses more fat for energy than it does carbs. This is key for endurance athletes. Athletes with small aerobic engines or small gas tanks usually get tired, run out of energy, and have trouble keeping a faster pace. Having a small tank or aerobic engine means your body is not very efficient at burning fat and relies too much on carbs for fuel. What’s the problem with that you may ask? Carbs can only give us so much fuel, an hour at the most. So, you may be saying, “Ok, I may be Car B, and have small gas tank Tim, but how do I grow it?” Simple, the answer is many, slow, and easy miles. Define easy? Remember, I said aerobic means with oxygen? Well, easy paces can be defined as paces that you can breath easily, hold a conversation, and if you have a heart rate monitor, basically anything around 75 percent or below of your Max Heart Rate. “But, shouldn’t I run some intervals and faster paced runs, too?” Yes, absolutely! However, there is an appropriate ratio to fast/easy running, recovery time, phases of training that have to be dialed in. That is why having a coach can really help. They basically take all of the above science, apply the principles, build a plan for you, and all you are left to do is run/exercise at the prescribed efforts. No guess work. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to become a coach. I have seen too many people training inefficiently, myself included. I am a nerd at heart and am fascinated by the science and how our bodies adapt to training. By having a coach, you can leave any questions about training behind and be able to just focus on getting faster!
So, which car are you right now? Can you afford to grow your tank or aerobic engine? I bet you can! I also bet if you do, your next PR is just around the corner! If you would like to take the next step and get the most out of your training or simply have a question, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Run it right,