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I hate running. Always have. My body was made for wrestling bears in the snow, not pelting across the steppe. And, yes, the opposition between gains in the iron temple and endurance training has made me wary of the latter, given my regular worship in the former. I say all that as a way of emphasizing how surprising it was that I found such great joy in reading this bronze age running manual, which so savagely tore this noble sport from the weak hands of middle management bugmen.

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I ran cross country as a teenager. I think I was the twink you mentioned. Now I hate running. Distance running causes your brain to emit opioid-like chemicals to mask the pain. It's addictive. And after a while, you get injured. Every group of runners talks about injuries. To legs, knees, tendons, back...running sux. Sprinting is fine. That's all you need. Just sprint for 60 seconds or so. Max out at 1 kilometer. Never run long distances. You'll ruin your body.

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Injuries are pervasive in any athletic endeavour where people train to their limits. There's no evidence running is more destructive than other sports, but I get being turned off by activities you were forced into as a kid. That was swimming for me.

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You are right, it's just that every runner I knew when I was a runner ran to his limits. We had lots of football games, basketball games, "war games," summer swimming at the lake, bicycle trips. No one habitually trained to his limits in these, or even considered it "training," but every runner I knew would get that delirious runner's "high" at the end of the run.

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This post has inspired me to start running again, even though I fucking hate it more than anything

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If you hate it, why would you do it? Go cycling, swimming, lifting or whatever. If you look at habitual swimmers, they often seem to be in much better condition than runners. Most females really like a professional swimmer's body but they won't like the feeble body of a marathon runner. Swimming is a mixture between cardio and strength exercise and you can see that in swimmers.

p.s.: I don't like swimming, but I acknowledge that it could be the best form of exercise.

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not every distance runner cultivates the physique of the high-volume elite marathoner. if you lift at moderate distance you end up more in the 'fight-club' mould.

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Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

Try running in loose sand, gravel, over moors or in deep snow.

It's humbling even to an experienced runner in good health.

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On my usual route there's a point about 3/4 in where the road narrows and I have to run on loose gravel to avoid traffic. It's not drowning on land, but it's as close as I'd like to get.

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Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

Actually, one of the benefits of Covid and non-stop home office was that I could go from 3-4 runs a week to 7. Boundary conditions (kids have to be thrown out of the house for school, I have to work) keep the distance at 5-10km per day. My advice: don't take your phone with you, and those bloody ear phones. The mental benefit of having time to clear your head and think is as valuable as the gain in fitness.

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Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

Reading this before headed out on my morning run. Definitely not what I expected. I couldn't stop laughing at "twinks in the park". Then I thought, is eugy talking about me?

Running does not destroy your knees. I did that playing basketball. Running made my knee stronger.

Tape up those nipples, boys! You'll find out why at 15 miles.

Don't stop lifting, even if it just bodyweight exercises. Lack of strength is a killer at old age.

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Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

"You break the longer run that you are aspiring to do, down into a bunch of very brief runs that you can manage, with periods of walking rest in between. You gradually increase the length of your running intervals, and decrease the length of your recovery walks, until you are running continuously. "

So, basically, Couch to 5k then.

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1) Couch to 5k doesn't own interval training. It's much older.

2) Our goal is to run about 10k, not 5k.

3) The point is to define your own interval times, not to follow prewritten guidelines, so this will start harder.

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Jul 21, 2022Liked by eugyppius

This is top quality. Running programs are so prescriptive, geared to on-paper social media achievement and useless for changing yourself. As a rule, going until you're knackered, then stopping for a bit, then going again is better than about 90% of the programs you'll find anywhere. This post is one of the best intros I've seen.

I started running about 2 years ago when I moved house, and it's better than I could have imagined. My back and hip problems have balanced out and it gives this excellent sensation of effortless power - different to what you get from lifting, but just as nice. If anybody here doesn't run yet, at least give it a go.

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Two suggestions/items:

1. Galloway on Running (about 1985 or so?) is a fine manual on running by a guy who really knows. And using his methods, you can actually train to distance with 3 workouts per week, of 30 minutes (trackwork), 1 hour (hill work) and 2 hours (LSD, long slow distance).

2. Absorption & Reformation is the method to build stronger bones and connective tissue. It's like stressing and rebuilding muscles, but for the bones, tendons, ligaments and sheathes. Easy to Google and understand, but the best method to do this is controlled, excellent form descents on safe, hard surfaces (limited shearing force) followed by 2 days rest.

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There's a few arguments embedded in this piece, and one of them is about what Americans call the 'cult of high mileage.' I think for optimal results, there's no way around training at high volume. Can you train to run a marathon on three runs a week? Sure. Will you be as fast as similarly talented runners who train at greater distance? Definitely not.

Now the caveats:

-There are some uniquely talented runners who can get very fast on relatively low mileage or relatively few workouts per week, but the catch is that they'd be *even faster* at high volume.

-Don't know about Galloway (isn't he the one with all those run-walk training plans?) but, a lot of the three-run-per-week training plans ('Run Less, Run Faster' is the most recent incarnation) are actually marathon training for triathletes in disguise. I'll freely admit that, if you're doing tri events, it may make incredible sense to scale back your running in favour of playing to your strengths as a cyclist/swimmer.

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No arguments embedded, just a couple of ideas. It's quite difficult to discuss running in detail without first positing the paradigmatic "Runner:" it can be male (but not necessarily), and we should posit an interest level, age, job & family status, available time for training and finally, a goal--this last we should try to help Runner determine. We are all individuals, no matter what the Covidiots say, and each of us will be aiming at something different along the spectrum.

I believe it's true that the overwhelming majority of people entering 10K, 1/2 & full marathon, 50K ultra, 100K ultra and 100 mile ultra discovered this interest in adulthood; I'd even venture to say 99% of them never ran organized track & field or X-country. But somehow they (and Runner) became interested in running for (some sort of) distance. What this also means is that "speed" may be of lesser (and perhaps no) importance in the whole scheme of things.

Let's assume Runner is 35, with a family and a job, and a variety of conscious and unconscious goals: He wants to run 31 miles in a 50K mountain trail ultra, and is willing to train for it, he mostly wants to "complete" and only worries about "speed" after that--which makes sense. He wants to train, to the extent possible, on his terms, but also wants to keep his boss and his family contented with him.

It's quite easy to go "all in" for running and find yourself demoted or jobless and divorced. So, let's assume Runner doesn't want that.

Finally Runner wants to run for overall health (physical and psychological) purposes, so doing this at risk to either/both is not attractive to him. Of course, being a competitive type, he would like to also be as fast as his situation permits.

As for the Galloway type plan (going from memory, almost 30 years ago) it was a logical way to optimize hours and types of training while also optimizing one's physical condition for race day. I found it fascinating, and actually scientific. And, it was almost impossible to injure oneself by overtraining. Perhaps the most interesting element was the build up to the event, where Runner needed to run (finally) at least 2 long runs at close to race pace, but only 1/2 the distance of the event. Assuming a 50K (31 mile) trail ultra and a race pace of 6 mph (not bad for 31 miles), then the final 2 training runs were 15-16 miles and ~2.5 hours each. Then, there was a 2+ week period of cutting training way back to build up excess energy for race day. I have done this, running 15 miles for 50K and 30 miles for 100K and never flagged for energy on event day.

Biology is interesting, since the world's greatest athletes never train at all. I've never seen a leopard or a cheetah or mountain lion "work out," or a raptor do test runs. Most long distance training programs which focus on distance (curiously you call it volume) contain quite a few time bombs which will get the runner out of running rather than keep him in it for decades.

Finally, it's been over a decade and I mistyped the bone formation concept. It is "resorption and formation" and it really is a kind of runner's magic (and requires a fair amount of rest/down time to achieve its wizardry). First 100K I ran I found my knees on fire at the 60K mark (~36 miles), waded into an icy stream to find relief, waded out and ran another 6 miles before retiring (DNF). The next year, having used resorption and formation technique, I ran the entire 62.2 miles without any noticeable knee inflammation whatsoever. For the rest of my ultra days (now in the past) bone inflammation never once occurred.

In running less is sometimes more (see Bill Bowerman and The Men of Oregon, etc), and more is often less.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30623989/

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I just turned 49, I am an athlete and quite healthy, but I have never been a runner. But I was trail walking and sprinting with my dog recently, and I appreciate the timing of your article. A good reminder. What you describe is very much of our hunter gatherer origins.

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At your age the adventure awaits. If you can find a trail run event (my first, at 56, was a 50K, which was fine except I only trained 4 weeks for it and it showed) a year out, begin the process. Mountain trails will, surprisingly, keep you from the injuries that the hard surface & Nike cushion shoe crowd always get and never, really, get rid of until they move to trails.

In response to some of the other comments which treat running/jogging etc. as a "fitness" activity are missing about 95% of the actual benefits of running the trails. Good luck, you've got 21 years of 31-62 mile event runs in you.

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Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

Fantastic article!

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Jul 20, 2022·edited Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

I worked up from nothing to 4miles 4x a week. Did it for two years or so then was afflicted by ITBS.

Now, I fear going more than 2.5 miles or so. I'm terrorized by the knee. Anyway, I'd recommend that new runners stretch out the ITB before starting any run. Let me know if you have any advice on that.

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I had ITBS problems for a while, first on right knee after a hard marathon, and then just after I got through that, the same problem on the left after a tough workout on a route that ended up having a long downhill stretch.

At the time I had a coach who prescribed various strength routines, mainly squats, which helped, but the thing that got me over it in the end was the vulgar advice I got from some running board: "Every time you feel it coming on, squeeze your ass, like you're trying to hold a coin in the crack."

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Jul 20, 2022·edited Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

When running barefoot, the whole damping must come from your muscles. The barefoot running technique is pretty special and very soft and it took me weeks and months to learn it. Its much more muscle training than shoe-jogging. But if you don't run with correct technique/style then your feet will hurt very quickly. Now (in my mid 50s) I feel like I can continue running for ever.

Also, the looks you get are fun too ;-)

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I've had the ITB issue, too. I found rolling it out after every run to be very helpful but it did take several months to totally resolve.

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Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

Lacrosse ball in the hip crest worked for me.

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Lacrosse ball made me cry so I used a foam roller

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Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

What a nice surprise, you are a runner too. I went minimalist-shoes 10 years ago (after experiencing knee pain). And I switched to completely barefoot 2 years ago. Happiest running ever. No injuries for 10 years. 3-4 times 30 min per week. No watch, just enjoying running meditation by the sea (Mallorca ;-) Grüsse nach Bayern).

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Jul 20, 2022Liked by eugyppius

I can't wrap my head around barefoot on the road.

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This is an awesome report, and a little different from the norm for you but I love it. I’m 61 now and a daily walker, but in my youth I was a long distance track runner. I miss running. I’m going to try your advice here. Also passing it onto my kids. Really appreciate your writing!

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"you’ll discover a new form of exhaustion you’ve never experienced before, in which your legs become concrete and further running seems basically impossible."

In cycling we call this 'Bonking', and it's like someone has switched the power off and gone home. From energy to zero. It arrives in seconds and a sugar/gel/carbo hit (or quitting) is the only way back.

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Jul 21, 2022Liked by eugyppius

First time I have to disagree. Running long distances does not make you strong and health benefits are doubtful. To be strong, especially as you age, you don't need to run much, you need to move weights. I know so many runners of my age, some quite ambitious, and they look weak and feeble.

A good mix of some cardio, ideally with a bit of interval training to add intensity and a good dose of lifting weights maintains fitness and muscle mass. I never run for more than 15minutes, I need the pain of burning muscles and iron in my hands.

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distance running is plainly one of the things humans are adapted to do, and like our intelligence, it’s one of our unique adaptations that sets us apart from other animals. of course i have nothing against strength training.

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Jul 21, 2022Liked by eugyppius

You sure about that? Why would a hunter/gatherer run long distances? You scout out an animal and use your bow, spear or whatever for the kill. They probably walked a lot, looking for food.

But hey, I am just being biased here. I hate running long distances, it gives me shin splints and boredom. I love 15 min of interval sprints (90sec really fast, 2min slow) on a treadmill until I almost puke and some intense weight lifting. I need that pain, whether it is running or lifting.

If running is your thing, obviously go for it.

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persistence hunting would be the major theory about why hunter-gatherers need to run long distances. whether that's right or wrong, it can't be an accident that humans are some of the fastest known land animals from distances around 25 mi/40 km (and much shorter in the heat). but of course, I'm not demanding everyone do distance training, it's just something i like to do and find rewarding.

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Difficult to imagine humans hunting like wolves, I don't think our ancestors were that stupid. They probably built traps, scouted out animal tracks, hiding places, watering holes and waited patiently for the critters to show up. Makes no sense to try to outrun faster animals on four legs.

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Jul 21, 2022·edited Jul 21, 2022Author

humans can outrun almost all animals in endurance situations, particularly if it’s hot. persistence hunting would happen in open savannah environments, particularly with herd animals, and there have been peoples known to practice it. a lot of the reasons humans seem weak compared to animals of comparable weight are actually out endurance adaptations - no fur, long thin bones, reduced muscle mass relative to weight, etc

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Jul 21, 2022Liked by eugyppius

Seems a contested issue, this persistence hunting:

https://undark.org/2019/10/03/persistent-myth-persistence-hunting/

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Jul 21, 2022Liked by eugyppius

Interesting and plausible in open spaces like savannahs. I was thinking more about our ancestors here in Germany. As far as I know, Germany was pretty much covered in dense woods, where persistence hunting of faster and more agile animals seems impossible if you are not a pack of wolves. They must have used other methods.

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