Thursday, 29 November 2012

Running advice for beginners! Consistency

I have been a personal fitness trainer for over 13 years and over that period I must have had conversation about running with hundreds and perhaps even a thousand people. It doesn't matter if  I am out socialising with friends in a pub, at weddings, birthday parties, on holidays, at social events with my children or at home in Ireland visiting my family, I get questioned about running and weight loss all the time. The vast majority of the time I quite enjoy these conversations and hence this blog.

Anybody who enjoys running and considers themselves a beginner or entry level runner usually wants to know how to run faster or longer. Then they usually want me to convince them that they can run a marathon because they just can't fathom this as much as they would like to.
What every beginner needs to understand is that in the absence of any pathological or orthopaedic condition it is very possible to run a marathon. However getting into the physical condition to run 42.2km without harming yourself is not an easy thing to do. If it was easy everybody would run a marathon at least once because of the sense of achievement that comes with finishing a marathon.
I'm not saying that any body with a pathological or orthopaedic condition should not be able to or aiming to run a marathon. However if this is the case then this person should consult their healthcare practitioner before commencing.

Running any distance requires a certain amount of training. This training is aimed at conditioning the heart and lungs, the musculoskeletal system and the gastrointestinal system to full fill the demand that the distance you want to run will place on them. The conditioning process takes time and most importantly it requires consistency.
In an earlier post I explained that the power stations in the muscle cells (mitochondria) shut down if they are not required. The opposite is true if you start to demand more from the muscles. The more and more you run the more power stations you need. You always have a few power stations that are closed but can be opened if the energy demand is high enough (when you open these idling power stations you will have a pink red face, sweat will be flowing out of you and you will be panting like an over excited puppy), unfortunately you can't sustain this for very long because your heart rate will be too high. However if you are consistent with your running you will build more power station making energy easier to access. Therefore you can regulate your heart rate much more because you won't have to pump as much blood to and from the muscles and lungs. Your performance is going to be completely dependant on the number of power stations you have working and your ability to control your  heart rate (heart rate control will be another days discussion).
The power stations all do the same thing but some are better at burning different types of fuel. There are some all round good power stations, some that can burn carbs a little better than fats and some better at burning fats. If you don't use these power stations (mitochondria) to produce fuel they will be shut down and all the workers will go home.

Imagine you are the mayor of a small town. Your town requires a certain amount of energy every day to function so you organise 2 power stations to meet the needs. There are also a few small sites that can produce energy but they are not cost effective, reliable or sustainable. However these sites are useful if there is a one off demand for more energy.
Over a short period your town receives a few contacts to start exporting more and more of the goods it produces. All the residence are excited and every body wants to make some extra money. The energy demands go up and up. You decide that another 3 temporary power stations are needed. You build them, hire the man power to run them and it's worth the investment with the revenue from the exports. The money it costs to run the new power stations is far exceeded by the revenue they create by supplying power to the factories.
If the contracts are completed and no new deals are secured the factories power demand will drop and the power stations are no longer cost effective. The best thing to do is shut the 3 temporary power stations and once again rely on the 2 permanent stations.

You see how this story fits with running. Two mitochondria supply the energy demands of a muscle cell. You start running, demand is increased so you make new mitochondria. These require energy to run but it's worth it for you so long as you run CONSISTENTLY! If you are sporadic and miss a few run sessions then the power stations shut down. You will not make any progress and your ability to run farther will be impossible. 
It's completely normal to miss a training session from time to time particularly if your body is finding it hard to recover. Always listen to your body, think about the adaptations leading to pain and injury. If you need to skip a session don't try and play catch up by squeezing a session in on a rest day. However don't make a habit of missing training session due to laziness, if you do you will shut down some power stations and progress will be impossible.

This is only part of the story behind why consistency is essential. The other half being heart rate control achieved by opening new capillary (new pipe lines) to allow faster fuel delivery to the power stations. In the effort to keep these entries short and simple I will write about this in a separate entry.

Twitter: @flashforfitness #RunSensible