March 6, 2008 - To use a treadmill or brave the elements to meet fitness objectives - that is the question. Most runners say they do not like TM running, but that may be more of a platitude that a consensus. While most prefer to be outside any day under most conditions, it sure is nice to spin the miles off inside when wind and weather combine to offer hypothermic conditions. The biggest challenge for me in the winter is slippery road surfaces, the wind, and snow cover on the trails. Falling or freezing sweat are bad enough, but the lateral torment on my ankles and knees can set me back very quickly. After all, injury prevention is equally important in training as putting in quality miles.

With my approaching race schedule, discipline in training is essential, but unlike the ambitious multiple session daily grind of my youth, now I can only train effectively on alternate days. My current schedule involves every other day TM efforts of 12 miles at 6 mph pace, however, yesterday's session involved mostly 7 mph and some 8 mph pace without adverse consequence. If necessary I'll take off an additional day if the feedback I receive indicates the need for more rest. Rest and recovery are not time off from training but an integral part of the entire scheme. In the next month I'll bump my distance up to 14 and 16 miles on alternate days, limiting it to two hours of running indoors. If the weather cooperates I'll hit the back roads for longer - but not indoors.

TM running

My TM is currently located in an unfinished spa that will house a jacuzzi when I install one later this spring. The spa is separate from the rest of the house and unheated, with full windows on three sides, offering views of the surrounding wooded landscape that makes up my back yard. While I am running indoors, as much as possible I invite the weather and sunshine in by opening all the windows to equalize the temperature and humidity with the outside. It keeps condensation at a minimum indoors and gives me abundant fresh air. I feel fortunate to have such circumstances. While I can still experience hypothermia, without any wind, at least my footing is predictable and a break can be taken at any time if necessary. Usually my runs are to some kind of recorded percussive music, without needing headphones. I've even recorded my own collection of music that is in sync with my cadence and rhythm.

Having run up to five hours at a time on a treadmill without music, I can appreciate the inquiries about what I think about, or the question of "Don't you get bored?" Since the ultra is my specialty at this stage in life, one must get used to many hours running alone without society, entertainment, or other distraction. Actually, I can't say I ever get bored, but such statement is also true about my life in general. There are times I get anxious to conclude a session, but that's where the discipline comes into play. You can't quit just because you want to. Meeting the pre-decided objective without compromise is necessary, whether in training or racing.

It's my feeling that most of my injuries occur during training - not during a race. Right now I'm nursing signficant tendon and ligament damage in my left heel - something that my never be pain-free; also pain under the right patella. Given my injury history over forty years of running, I actually feel quite good at this stage of the game. At the age of 55 I see my contemporaries falling by the wayside as they attempt to adjust to the ravages of old age. It's always been a challenge for me - dealing with pain and limitation - and I don't expect any breaks. With age it is all the more imperative to take care of oneself with good nutrition and warm up and stretching before exercise. The assumptions of youth wears thinner as we age and no longer give us the benefit of doubt.

I have taken to recording programming of Gilad's Bodies in Motion from the FIT channel and using it as a warm up routine prior to doing a training run. It is easy to shortcut stretching or skip it altogether and head out the door to maximize the time running, but time spent with some mild aerobics, a bit of conditioning and stretching, and some strength exercises pays huge dividends, even at the expense of fewer miles in the log book. It is easy to be lazy about a complete warm up, or glaze over it with perhaps less than a minute of pre-running stretches. Gilad's routines are enjoyable - if you like beautiful Hawaiian backdrops, the gentle spirit of play, and thinly-clad athletes working out with you. No matter what one's age, warming the muscles and getting the juices flowing prior to engaging in any activity optimizes one's range of motion and prevents unnecessary injuries.

The older I get, the more warming up I need before starting to run, so I make Gilad an integral part of all training and race preparation. Discounting commercials, I generally spend a half to a full hour with one or more recorded Gilad sessions. The core strengthening crunches are particularly good for rebalancing muscle and tissue groups that have gotten under-used in a lifetime of running. I know of no outstanding runner that does not have a strong core. I have learned the hard way that cross-fitness is the best way to stay sharp and injury-free in the log run, and am so thankful that the young women on Gilad's program are so svelte and inspiring.

Larry Creveling
Highlands Sky 40 Mile
Davis, West Virginia - 2005