Sunday, April 4, 2010

Aaron Linz: Fast Times are no Accident

I have had some folks approach me the last month or two inquiring why I am running so well right now. At 36 going on 37, I am performing at the same level and in some cases better than when I was a Division I athlete at UNC Chapel Hill over 15 years ago! It is pretty factual as to why I am running well so I figured I would share the numbers:

March: 319.8 miles/26 runs/12.3 average, 1 bike, 4 swim
Feb: 273 miles/27 runs/10.1 average, 1 bike, 4 swim
Jan: 300.6 miles/26 runs/12.02 average, 2 bike, 4 swim
Dec: 275 miles/27 runs/10.2 average, 3 bike, 4 swim

The 4 highest monthly mileage EVER for me and I have been running since 1984!

Additional Facts:
-Best and most consistent sleep and eating I have had in my life
-Virtually no injuries, Best stretching and medical support I have ever had
-Lightest weight and lowest body fat since college
-Minimal stress in my life right now
-A great group of folks to run with that inspire me and push me to run faster

So what does it all mean? Mileage pays off but I caution, it took me 2 years to get comfortable with putting in 70+ miles in 6 days. Don't read this and decide you need to run 300+ miles in April to get better. But...if you want to take your running to the next level, the more mileage your body can handle over time and the more time you can commit to make that happen, it will pay off. Last year, right around 60 and my body would start to break down. I was doing 5 runs a week and occassionally 6. Now I can handle 6 runs a week and can push up to 80 and a little over 80 a week.

Sleep - TOTALLY under-rated. I apologize to those who have heard repeat this a million times but it is such a powerful statement. Coach John McDonnell who had more distance all americans and team championships that most coaches dream of was once asked what did all his top runners have in common. He said the only thing for sure that was consistent accross all his all americans is they all got 10 hours of sleep a night! Now I know most of us (including me) can't and probably don't want to get 10 hours a night. But I try like heck to get 8 hours when I am training hard or have a big race coming up. Try sleeping 8-10 hours a night a couple days leading up to a big race or a long run and I promise you will feel much better. Sleep is an easy way to improve your running. You just need to make the time for it.

Injuries - I am dealing with some shin pain now and I had some hip flexor issues this training cycle but for the most part, I have been healthy which means I have been able to consitently train. This is because I stretch well, do my strength exercises and when I have a problem, I find the best professionals in town to help me get over the injury and move towards preventing that injury going forward.

Weight - Ughh....nobody likes this topic but try carrying a roll of quarters in each hand and run up a hill. Now do it without the quarters. Did it make a difference? Absolutely! I have traditionally been a good downhill runner but over the past year, I would argue that I am a much better uphill runner now. I feel lighter and can motor up hills like never before. Do I explicitly diet? Not really. Instead I try to eat well. I splurge every now and then and am particularly careful the weeks were I am training hard but I can guarantee you that nobody in the world has ever put on weight from bananas and apples. If you finish your meal and you are still hungry, have some fruit. For better or worse, distance running is a sport where the less you carry the less your body has to work and hence, you should be able to run faster and further. But....don't be stupid about it! Starving yourself, getting too thin cuts into your strength so seek a professional if you are serious about finding the right weight balance.

Low Stress - Be HAPPY!!! That sounds so incredibly basic but too many folks stress about really dumb stuff. Ask yourself, what you are stressing about...does it really matter in the big picture? We are not on this planet long enough to freak out about stuff. Find ways to be happy and find activities (like running) that reduce stress. Your body won't be as tense and you won't tire yourself out by stressing about silly things. I have been reallly blessed to have minimal stress in my life lately.

The GROUP!!! - Every Monday when I read the club newsletter, I am so extremely proud of the success of our club members. I am not talking just about good times and top places. I am particularly proud for the folks who broke 2 hours for the first time in a half marathon. For the folks who completed their lst marathon. For the folks who really decided they love running and are going to do more of it. It motivates me tremendously.

If you know 15 folks are going to be at the Dowd Y at 6am in a cold wet rain, you feel guilty if you decide to slack and sleep in so you get up and make it out to the run. I would NEVER do this on my own but knowing other folks are out there has helped me be consistent with my training.
He/she did that so I can too! - I am competitive so when I see runners in the club perform at new levels that are better than me, it feeds my competitive fire to want to beat them in my next race! I have seen alot of this occurring this year and I believe this healthy competition is terrific! It makes us all want to do better. What is the best thing for Kobe Bryant? Lebron James and Dwayne Wade. I guarantee they are very aware of each others performances and are always striving to be better than their competitors.

So.....if you made it this far, hopefully I put some thoughts into your head and unfortunately, eliminated any dreams that I have some magic potent which allows me to run faster. For 99.9% of us running his a hobby and we must juggle it with family, work, and other interests. So, we all have a judgement call about how much we can commit to the sport. Again, I am blessed at this point in my life that I can commit a lot of time to running. The good news though is the more you can put into it, our sport rewards you handsomely with better results. If you do have the opportunity and desire to take your running to a new level, please keep the facts in mind that I have listed here and you will see improvement.

Happy Running!!! - Aaron

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