“How much should I run?”

I’d asked Brandon Lann, CEO of Race Roster if there was a rule of thumb for weekly mileage. For context I’d asked how much can you could ‘get by with’ if you were training for a 10k.  He paused “Around 70km a week…”.  My brain idly did the math, “So, that’s around 10k every day to prepare for a 10k race…?” Now to put his answer in context, Brandon completes a marathon in around 2 hours and 30 minutes, faster than many can finish half that distance; clearly Brandon isn’t the “getting by” kind of runner.

This got me thinking, “How much should I run? “. If I assume I’m not being chased, then my answer will be influenced by my running goals. My instincts tell me that running to lose weight or to get fit requires a different approach than running improve a time or compete in a particular event.

The case for running less: It’s tough to lose weight by exercising. If you don’t believe me the check out how people finishing a 10 or 20 km fun look. These guys may be ‘fit’ but I’ll bet you’ll find plenty who are carrying extra fat, especially around the belly. Exercise is an important component of health, but trying to exercise off ‘weight’ is very hard work and is rarely sustainable.

There is also an unfortunate coloration between the more you run and the likelihood of picking up an injury. Running is a repetitive action and doing it for a long time risks some sort of injury, especially if you’ve been sedentary. Professional runners ward off by injuries with strengthening excises, flexibility work and technique. Cold baths may be a brilliant aid to recovery but they only happen for me when I can wade into a lake after a run. I suspect that for most of us, an hour, spent three to four times a week doing some easy running is adequate.

The case to run more: It would seem pretty obvious that the more you run, the better you do. Naturally, some of us do harbour an ambition for excellence. effects-of-mileage

For those I found this graph of marathon times compiled by RunKeeper, which illustrates how increasing weekly distances increases running speed. Interesting as this may be, the majority of us aren’t training to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

 

 

completion-time

It seems that logging more weekly km will make you run faster over distance.  So, if you’re planning on running a distance event, the further you can run each week while staying healthy, the better you stand to do.

Looking at the second table you could predict that running 44 miles or 70 km a week will put you around a 3 hours and 50 minute marathon time. This is a start. However, most of us aren’t planning on running a marathon, and those who do are often more concerned with finishing. Luckily for me I fond this great article by Ed Eyestone on the Runners World website. He’s used experience to suggest a range of distances that are sufficient for different event. Its split into two group, the “Mortals’ is geared towards those simply looking to finish while the ‘elite’ distances are for those looking to fulfill their potential.

I’m going to assume the distances for ‘mortals’ are around on three to four runs each week. That said, it may be possible to achieve the similar results with more frequent runs of shorter duration.

 Event 5K 10K Half Marathon ~21km Marathon

~42km

Elite Runner:   112-128

Km per week
128-160

Km per week
160-177

Km per week
160-225

Km per week
Recreational:    32-40

Km per week
40-50

Km per week
48-64

Km per week
48-80

Km per week

This chart is a good place to start. You may be able to do a 5km to 10 km run with only about 10-15km of weekly training, but you will likely suffer afterwards. Most runners agree that When increasing your weekly distances, to keep it at no than 10% to avoid injury.

There were no easy answers to my question. Athletes like Brandon have very different goals to us recreational runners. Emulating their weekly distances is daunting prospect. Ultimately, how much you decide to run is a personal choice. Consider what your body can take, time available to run and wether you’re enjoying it.

Whatever that number is, I hope you stay healthy.

McG

 

 

Green Smoothie

Its ‘smoothie season’ so here’s my goto recipe for a quick and simple green smoothie.

  • 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds (soak them until they’re gooey)
  • 4 cups of spinach or field green salad
  • 1/3 cup of blueberries
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 1 teaspoon of coco-powder
  • water (you could use ‘tea’ or milk)

My extras, if I want to add some fuel and calories

  • 1/6 cup of whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon MCT (or coconut) oil

I begin with Chia seeds since they are a good source of protein and help to thicken the smoothie. Some people prefer to use protein powder instead of chia seeds, I don’t think it really matters. chiagraphicPut about 1-2 tablespoons in a small bowl with about a third of a cup water to soften them up. While they’re soaking I add the greens into the mixer. Spinach has been on sale recently so I’ve been buying extra bags and storing them in the freezer. img_0917 If I’ve been working out or craving a little sweetness I’ll add half a banana into the mix. If you’re worried about the carbs then skip it but half is about right for me, and really does improve the flavour.

Next I’ll add about a third of a cup of blueberries. Berries are relatively in low carbs and full of antioxidants. Some recipes I’ve seen call for tropical fruits which, like banana’s have a lot of sugar which can promote fat storage.

I’ll sometimes add about 30ml of heavy cream and about 15ml of MCT / coconut oil if I’m looking to get a little more energy. Occasionally I’ll add a dash coco-powder, but not too much since berries and banana don’t add a great deal of sweetness.

By this point the chia seeds should have turned into a wallpaper paste texture and I pour them in. I tend to use filtered water rather than milk or ‘tea’ to make up the rest of the volume of the smoothie. I don’t use fruit juice because of its high sugar content. Occasionally I’ll use milk for the extra minerals and vitamins. I’ll let it stand for a minute or two in the freezer while I clean up.

Thats pretty much it. Some people are adding protein powder or using kale and substituting tea for of water. Figure out what works for you. For me its a great post workout treat.

Enjoy!

Disclaimer
My thoughts, observations and conclusions may inspire you to change or adjust your life, or perhaps impose them on the unsuspecting. Please remember I do not pretend these are absolute medical facts. Rather, they are a snapshot of my growing wisdom. I’m not a doctor nor a nutritionist. I don’t claim to possess medical insights into the workings of the human body. What I share is based upon the easily available facts, and information I’ve gleaned during a few unfortunate accidents.

Before you begin any physical or nutritional lifestyle change, please consult with a registered medical practitioner and make sure you are healthy and fit to begin. Remember, the goal is to enjoy the journey and avoid the road to disaster, which is littered with pitfalls and paved with good intentions. 

Why calories in doesn’t always equal calories out…

Ever gone for a walk or run to “burn off the calories”? It was probably a waste of time.

fat-versus-carbohydratesFor years the idea that our body ‘burns off’ the calories we eat through exercise has been promoted and used to justify selling exercise equipment and VHS aerobics videos. There are whole business models based around dieting, and reducing calories consumed.

Its hard work, and how many of those people regain the weight once they stop their calorie restriction [3]? However, it may be more effective and sustainable to manage our weight by exploiting how the body processes different types of food. One of my favourite Vinnie Tortorich quotes goes like this; “… exercise is a lousy way to lose weight.” [1].

How the body responds after consuming a calorie of carbohydrate (bread, pasta, grapes, oatmeal or soda) is markedly different to the way it processes a calorie of fat.

The body basically views starch or carbohydrates as sugar. When digested, carbohydrate becomes sugar molecules and these enter the blood stream. The body recognizes sugar and the pancreas squirts out the hormone insulin to help transport it into cells. bowl-of-cerealAfter topping off our sugar reserves, a couple of spoonfuls, the body has to deal with the leftover sugar (a bagel contains an average 7g of sugar and a can of carbonated soda about 36g ) [4]. Insulin plays a role in converting this remaining sugar into body fat [1]. Constantly varying levels of insulin can also lead to feelings of hunger, leading us to want to eat again.

Eating a calorie is fat is different. The body uses fat as a fuel, its why we store it in first place. However there isn’t quite the same hormone response. That doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited quantities of fat, (the excess will have to go somewhere) but by avoiding insulin spikes and the repeated instruction to store sugar as fat, I believe it’s easier to maintain a steady weight. I avoid processed fats and oils like canola or margarine as I don’t believe they’re particularly good for you.

the-wild-plate1
Veggies, fats, proteins and carbs

I look for minimally processed, clean ‘healthy’ options such as you’d find from avocados, butter, olive oil, coconut oil and good meat. Personally I’m still eating about the same number of calories each day as I did when the majority of my food was carbohydrate.  Check out the book ‘The wild diet’ by Abel James for ideas on how source calories from fats and vegetables rather than carbohydrates.

There’s always a place for exercise. Its great maintain cardiovascular fitness, develop muscle strength and bone density. I’ve talked before about the benefits of lower intensity of ‘zone two training‘. However, I no longer think of exercise as creating a bank of calories from which I can withdraw by eating whatever I want.

Disclaimer
My thoughts, observations and conclusions may inspire you to change or adjust your life, or perhaps impose them on the unsuspecting. Please remember I do not pretend these are absolute medical facts. Rather, they are a snapshot of my growing wisdom. I’m not a doctor nor a nutritionist. I don’t claim to possess medical insights into the workings of the human body. What I share is based upon the easily available facts, and information I’ve gleaned during a few unfortunate accidents.

Before you begin any physical or nutritional lifestyle change, please consult with a registered medical practitioner and make sure you are healthy and fit to begin. Remember, the goal is to enjoy the journey and avoid the road to disaster, which is littered with pitfalls and paved with good intentions. 

[1] Vinnie Tortorich interviewed on “Becoming superhuman” Ep; 12. 2017

[2] Gary Taubes “Why we get fat, and what to do about it”  Alfred A. Knopf, United States of America 2011

[3] Daily Beast “Most effective diets

[4] Mail Online “Sugar Detox Diet