Despite gross oversimplification, allow me to recklessly declare that the human body is, in fact, a machine. And I feel inclined to smirk a bit every time someone bellows the intended praise, “You’re a machine!”
I smirk because in my own quiet corner of the cognitive universe, I’m liking the complement to telling someone, “You have a body!” or “You breathe air!”
And that reminds me of a source of unlimited entertainment for you… Go to a track meet (preferably a large one so that there are more people shouting) and listen to the things coaches and teammates and other stakeholders shout at those competing. It’s worth it. I promise.
The 3-Part Training Guide
This final segment of my shamefully inadequate training guide (remember that my perspective on the topic is that there is no such thing as a truly effective generic training guide – all training must be adapted to individuals to be effective) tackles the nature of how we care for our machines.
If you’ve been following this series (this is part 3 of 3 in what I’m calling my “Training Guide” – check out part 1 or part 2 if you missed), you may join me in reflecting on the fact that with the addition of each part, the gap between those who might be considered elite or professional and all others widens.
Simply stated, those with the time and motivation to devote themselves to the non-running aspects of training invariably succeed to a greater degree than those who don’t. Further stated, those at the very top of the sport in all its categories devote the greatest time and motivation to such things.
I am not suggesting that the best distance runners are thus because they do the non-running things best. That argument wouldn’t withstand my 3-year-old’s scrutiny. Instead, I am merely acknowledging the obvious connection: people who understand how to be successful in distance running know and address the importance of the things you do when you are not running.
Because I am one of those who believes that an effective way to better myself is to emulate the example of those better than myself, I find this topic essential. If you do as well, consider these simple foundations.
The Machine’s Basic Needs
No surprises. Your body needs fuel, rest, and lubrication. Mark me: the reason hydration is vital to your running experience is because the fluidity of your blood determines your body’s ability to get oxygen to your muscles.
So yes, I do mean lubrication.
But if it is more comfortable to think of it otherwise, then we can keep with hydration (I guess that is more scientific, anyway).
Fuel the Machine
One of our earliest “test” posts was on this topic. I encourage you to read it to get a deeper understanding of the point I am about to make.
What is the best way to fuel the machine? By eating the stuff you always eat.
Unless you eat a constant stream of ruggish fogwash. First, fix that problem and start eating reasonably decent foods, then come back and keep reading this post.
To summarize my previous post in one sentence, Matt Fitzgerald publishes great stuff about running and nutrition and recently concluded that the highest level endurance athletes all around the planet eat a pretty consistent cross section of the standard diets of the cultures in which they live.
His advice: eat what works for you, but eat more good stuff than bad stuff.
Rest the Machine
I’ve heard it said, and totally agree, that what you’re not doing throughout the day defines to what degree you are able to sustain your training.
Rest means two things to a distance runner: (1) absence of physically demanding activity and (2) sleep.
A runner attempting to balance the razor edge of maximum sustainable training can only do so by carefully limiting other activity throughout the day. I should note here that this is part of why Lydiard argued against too much strength training and some of those things. Many of his earliest athletes worked arduous jobs full time (bricklayer, milkman). Consequently, he saw no need for additional work in a capacity that was already occurring in significant doses.
That looks differently for everyone, but the point remains that the more I train, the more rest I need.
Sleep, though, is a much easier topic to address. Get lots of it. That’s it. There’s plenty of research into why you need it (Tuck has a good post about HGH production during sleep – a familiar topic for many, but worth a quick glance). Just like general rest, you’ll find that the more training you do, the more sleep your body needs. If that’s the case, listen to it and give that machine what it needs.
Hydrate the Machine
Mostly with water, I should add. At the very least, any time you consume a beverage that is anything put actual (preferably purified) H2O, you are making your body work that much harder to get the pure H2O to the proper places.
Do your body a favor and drink more water and less other stuff.
Be mindful, as well, of the science on hydration. We know with certainty that hydration is a sustained process, not an isolated activity. The water that you are drinking now is contributing to your level of hydration tomorrow.
Feeling especially thirsty and dry on a run? How much water did you drink yesterday (if it’s in the morning) or throughout the day (if it’s in the evening/afternoon)? Keep in mind that trying to grab a quick drink before or during a run doesn’t actually hydrate you. It certainly feels nice on a hot day, but it takes longer than that for the water to benefit you.
Again, I’m talking about actual blood fluidity. The feeling of being “sapped” or “heavy” from dehydration is very likely because of the fact that your blood is not effectively moving oxygen to your muscles.
Have you ever tried to give blood when you had not been drinking much water? It doesn’t work very well (and can end quite poorly for all involved).
Here’s where we lift the curtain and get real for a moment. With regard to the big three above, about the only thing we (Andi and Zach) do decently well is fuel.
All credit to Andi.
She is exceptional at finding easy, quick, but quality foods to prepare. Proof: the awesome recovery shake (pictured) she engineered with coconut milk (we are both lactose intolerant, to a degree), peanut butter, instant chocolate pudding, chia seeds, and some random frozen fruit. It’s game-changing.
It is worth noting that I tried to make it one weekend, and the result displayed uncivil animosity toward our bowels.
Regarding hydration, I rarely need to think overtly about it because aside from coffee, I generally prefer water over anything else. Although when we do buy some kind of soft drink, I have to exercise more discipline.
Andi, though, is notorious for sitting down for dinner (or even later) and saying, “I didn’t drink enough water today.” I can attest to the fact, given how often I hear it from others, that she is one of a multitude who feel that way on a near-daily basis.
Just remember next time you reach for the can instead of the faucet that the blood you want to be flowing freely is the same blood that brings fuel to your muscles and healing properties to damaged tissues or bones.
Finally, a word about our situation with regard to rest. At this exact moment, I am trying to crank out this post at a time of night that I objectively deem to be past my bedtime.
The very same can be said of whatever thing I am doing on nearly every other night of the week.
Therefore, I am telling myself the very same thing I am telling you. We must run with the machine we’ve built in whichever state we’ve maintained.
The beauty of the machine that is the human body is that it is always capable of change!
What’s next for you? Want something more direct and applicable to your situation? Andi and Zach are always willing to offer thoughts and support. Leave a comment below or send us a message. We look forward to hearing from you!