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Anthony Ingram setting up the treadmill

When in Berlin last September I was able to discuss training with many of my peers. Most guys are happy to disclose what their regular week looks like and take an interest in others. Marathoners are an educated group as a whole, or perhaps willing to learn from another’s failings!

The favourite method of comparison is how many ’miles per week’ or ’kilometres per week’ one covers. Indeed one of the key motivators for keeping a training diary is to track overall ’mileage’. These numbers can become impressive when you leaf through the pages of a highly trained marathoner’s diary. But is it important?

In short, yes. Nothing can beat repeated practice. Modern skill acquisition theory* suggests we need 10,000 hours of practice over 10 years to become ’expert’ at a skill be it a sport, an instrument or a particular tool. The benefits of repeated running include; becoming more efficient at the running movement and training the way the body stores and uses fuel. So high ’mileage’ makes sense for someone wanting to perform well at the marathon.

During the time in Berlin I was reminded how many men and women go almost to breaking point. Many I spoke to reported regular mileage of 200km per week and even 240km per week!

For me it threw me back to my earliest days as a marathoner where ’doing numbers’ yielded terrific fitness, some great results but check out the injury list;

  • 2002 sacroiliac stress fracture
  • 2006 osteitis pubis, multiple pelvis stress fractures
  • 2009 multiple meta tarsal stress fractures

All the above were sustained during periods of 18-24 months of high mileage where running 180 200km per week was typical.

Since coming back, twice from the 2009 Meta tarsal injuries where I spent an uncomfortable 9 months in a ’moon boot’ I have backed off mileage. Thankfully those big miles have been done and my body was able to develop some terrific adaptations. Since 2010 I have not had the inclination to go back to the ’high mileage’ regime preferring instead to pick my workouts and races carefully. I have accepted that I cannot be at the ’top of my game’ year round and to focus only on a key race with a couple lead in races. This is probably as much because the stage of life I am in with a wonderful family that is way more fun than running average races year round!

So how much is enough? Can I ’do numbers’ without risking it all?

Answer. The only way I will extend my body beyond the ample 100 mile (160km) barrier this time around will be with some easy running on the anti-gravity treadmill. Luckily Cassie Zane and Anthony Ingram have one such machine at their practice in Newcastle. Cassie and Anthony have been outstanding in researching the most appropriate use of the anti-gravity treadmill for me. Basically I have been replacing some of my easy and recovery runs on the machine. The trick is to use heart rate as a guide meaning if my normal HR for a recovery run is about 130BPM* then I should run at this same intensity at their prescribed 70% of my normal body weight.  The fun thing being instead of grovelling around running 5:00 min/km pace I am now rolling along at 3:45 min/km!

Once a skeptic I am now a believer that this technology as a purpose.

And if I wasn’t heading to Rio, if the only way I could run was on the anti-gravity treadmill, would I use it then? Nah, I’d probably go for a mountain bike ride in Glenrock!