Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Wrong Advice

So I will first start by saying, I by no means am an expert in running.  I have been running now, and enjoying it, for the last four years.  What makes up for my lack in running knowledge I make up in my obsessive compulsiveness in doing research.  Even from the onset of my running journey with my wife, we wanted to do it right.

This meant I was always reading and Googling everything from what shoes to wear, how to train for a marathon, nutrition, how to run certain types of terrain, etc.  I would ask people I knew who had run a while tips of the trade. I follow different bloggers (check the blog role to the left). We subscribed to both Runners World and Trail Runner magazines.  I have now even jumped into listen to podcasts, like Endurance Planet, UltraRunnerPodcast, and Trail Runner Nation for psuedo mentors.

Lately I have discovered Reddit and LinkedIn (my favorite groups being Bay Area Trail Runners, Run Lovers, Running In Business, and Marathon Runners) as sources for tips. For the most part, the tips and information is pretty reliable. 
Advice broken down by:

  • Terrain specific
  • Running method specific (trail, sprinters, marathon, etc.)
  • School of hard knocks (do what I say and not copy what I did)
  • Equipment and Nutrition 
Maybe its because I am getting cynical in my old age (in my prime for a trail or ultra runner), but it amazes me when people don't take the time to get answers to nagging problems or ways to improve. And it irks me when someone gives inacccurate or just plan wrong.   In fact, when looking for tips or advice it is easy to also find a rehash of old and outdated advice, or tips that, if someone would apply a level of thinking ability, make no common sense.  It is typically from runners (or any athletes) that are still learning from the school of hard knocks and haven't graduated.
For example, my wife and I have some friends that have been running for years.  They frequently get injured; however, have never looked into why.  However, they are also the first to jump into the latest running fad.  They have never asked why they can't walk a week because they tore up their quads going down hill. Or if you decide to go minimalist, do your research so that if the change is for you, you make the switchover without injury.
Dinner for the Napa Marathon.  Source:

I learned the hard way early in my running about accepting wrong advice.  For me it was carb loading before my first half marathon.  More specifically the pasta dinner the night before.  Don't get me wrong, I understand the importance of glycogen stores and the purpose of carb loading.  The problem is that I (and many others who are tempted by the pasta feed the night before) is how much is enough without overloading.   I in fact repeated this error at my first, third, and fourth marathon and ended up in the porta-potty at mile 18 (pretty much at all three).  

The key here is not accepting advice on face value.  Evaluate it against other research you have done.  Ask questions and learn.  If the advise you are given doesn't add up, move on.   Find what works for you.

Another example, when we began running I was 265 pounds.  That was March 2008.  By February 2009, I was 195 pounds running the Surf City Half -Marathon, and by October 2009, I was 177 and running my first marathon in Long Beach.  Eating wise, I subscribed to a ratio of 46% carb, 30% protein, 24% fat diet.  My weight had stabilized at Long Beach and wasn't bonking on runs.  I actually felt the best since high school. 

I wanted to get a bit more serious about running and did a lot more reading.  I surmised from what I read and the advise given,  that my ratios were wrong!  My carb and fat intake was too low and my protein to high.  SO, I started messing with a good thing.  Now I was finding that, while maintaining my calories at the same level, I was gaining weight.  I also noticed that my blood sugar was swinging.  So for me, a traditional "runners diet" was not good for me.  It wasn't until I started paying attention to more of the nuances of the advice that I understood what would be better.

Keep in mind, every bit of advice you will get may be due to that runners experience.  That said, a sprint runner's advice will be completely different than a 10K, a sub-3 hour marathoner to a 100 mile distance ultra runner.  It means discernment on your part.

So next time you get wrong advice, smile, and move on.

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