Thursday we did something a little different, mixed it up and did a little 2.5 or so mile run. Nice easy pace for the most part, but I had the guys, Dustin & Chris, using a tennis ball to do some short sprint bursts throughout the run. This is a great technique. One guy tosses the ball aways out, and the other accelerates out to catch it, usually on the single hop. Doesn't need to be an all out sprint, just a nice smooth acceleration. Makes the run more interesting, and teaches your body to buffer the lactic acid from the repeated sprints. Great for your base conditioning. We "bought in" with 100 double unders, and "cashed out" with 3 x 10 GHD Kettlebell rows. Nice work as always from the American Revolution Muy Thai team. I love that I can always count on these guys for quality effort and no bullshit. If I say go, these guys GO. If only everyone that had attitude. Kick ass.
So today I happened to spend about 1/2 the day at the Beach to Bay race packet pick up. This was a fascinating study. Looking at all the people participating definitely got me thinking. Most were in decent shape, compared to the general population. Some maybe even a bit better than that. All were obviously people who embrace an active lifestyle. All were pretty excited and looking forward to the event. It was clear that most people were doing this for social reasons, and not really too concerned about being competitive. They were just enjoying the whole event and all the hoopla around it. More power to them for getting out and doing something. Of course I also noticed the typical physique of all these pavement pounding mileage junkies was pretty similar. Gaunt and relatively free of muscle would describe it. Of course not ALL of them were like that, but that's the general appearance. It also crossed my mind that most of them probably are feeling pretty good about their fitness level, and associate fitness with cardiorespiratory endurance, and generally consider them one and the same. Of course this is FAR from the truth. If I measured the fitness of the local running club against the Ten General Physical Skills as we know them, the runners would come out looking very one-dimensional. So those were my thoughts as I watched these folks. Of course not all of them fit that description, and there were some crossfitters in the group, so I'm excluding all of those, and focusing on those who JUST run, and don't do much else. If you think about it, runners usually don't have really ANY of the other attributes. Those who are marathoners and such become about as one dimensional as it's possible to be. They have very little of any of the following. Strength, power, speed, agility, balance, accuracy, flexibility, stamina, or coordination. They exclusively stress one energy pathway to the total detriment of the others. I would not expect a highly accomplished distance runner to be remarkably good at anything else. The odds would be against it.
Unless it seems like I'm totally bashing runners personally I will say this much. What I do admire is their absolute dedication and tremendous drive. Runners are capable of suffering through some serious pain that most people want no part of. I admire anyone who sets a goal to do something really challenging like run a marathon. That is really awesome. My attitude however is, hey run ONE, so you can say you did it, if you must, and then focus on getting some real-world well rounded fitness. The kind that will serve you well no matter what challenge may come up.
It just happens to be my personal opinion that excessive distance running is not the path to real fitness. It prevents you from developing any other attribute that would describe you as a well rounded athlete. Not to mention that all those miles take a toll on the body and put the joints through a pretty thorough beating. Bottom line, an occasional 5k is ok, but generally you should run short distances for speed. Remember what happened to the very first guy who ever ran the marathon, and in whose memory the race itself came to be? After completing the 26 mile run, he collapsed and died, probably of heat stroke.