Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thinking Way Too Deep

Do you ever wonder if all of these things we use as runners make us stronger runners or weaker runners or some combination in between to where it all cancels out?  Think about it.  Does using energy gels help or hurt in the long run?  Just when you are feeling tired  you gulp a gel or some chews and continue on your way, pretty soon your energy levels pick up and you keep running with renewed energy and focus. 

What if you skipped the gels though and just trudged on.  Would our bodies learn to utilize what we have stored in our bodies better?

  Or does it really matter? 

Do our bodies get dependent on us giving it a blast of energy to keep going and how much of that could be mental? Like for example if on a long run you always eat your gel at miles 5 and 10.  You are at mile 4.5, you know in your mind pretty soon you are going to get that gel in your system and you will feel energized and able to keep running for another 5 miles. 

Are you tired because you are tired or could you really make it another couple of miles before you really do  need a gel.  Or are you tired because you think you should be getting low on energy and need a boost.

What got me thinking about this is that I usually refuel at about miles 5 and 10 on my long runs.  But say I am just doing an interval workout.  2 mile warmup, 8x800 and 1.5 mile cool down with   2 minute slow jogging in between the 800s, total mileage can be between 7 and 8 miles.  I never refuel when I hit mile 5, in fact I don't typically use any form of energy gels, chews etc on any other day except long runs and races. 

I am probably over thinking this as EVERYTHING  I have seen about it on the internet talks about how great energy gels are and how they help give you the endurance to keep going.  They are probably right and I do  love my gels, chomps, stingers, bloks, etc. 

The other things I use for running that I think have helped me become a stronger runner are: 

  •  Garmin I think has been one of the strongest motivators to up my training and keep it going so most definitely a help. 
  • iPod- keeps me from getting bored, and keeps me motivated when I need a pick me up song. Though sometimes I wonder if I didn't run with it, if I would stay more focused on form or pace.
  • Head/sweat bands keep the sweat and hair out of my face so, another helper here.
  • Compression socks/ calf sleeves feel too good to even contemplate getting rid of.
  • Styrofoam roller is my new best friend.  I don't know how my hammies survived before. I was never good at stretching, but this seems like less work and faster results.
  • Handful sports bra keeps me looking good when I run.
I didn't have any of these things except the iPod five years ago, and now I run way more competitively than I did than.  So I am not sure if they spoil me and make me a "softer" runner, but I do know they make running so much more fun! 

How has the gear you used changed in the last 5 years?
Do you think it makes you a tougher or a softer runner or do you just think I am over thinking on a Sunday? :)


  1. I completely understand your way of thinking on this one but yet I can't come up with an answer. I think about my cross country runs in high school when I used nothing. I never looked at my watch... I just ran. Those were some of my best times but I never trained like I do now (well prior to the pregnancy) back then. I rely on my Garmin, heart monitor, and iPod. I am trying to get back to what I ran in high school. I was getting there and hopefully I can after the baby comes.

  2. Last year, during my long run, I would take a gel at Mile 5 or 6, and then at 8 or 9.
    When I did my 8 miles on the treadmill on Friday, I finished it all without the use of any gel. Laziness got into me. I didn't want to carry stuff with me when I run. So, I learned to wait to take my gels. :)

    As far as gear goes, I love my Garmin. I've tried listening to music but I don't know, it just aggravates me. But I cannot DO WITHOUT my Garmin when I am outside.

    I do believe that sometimes my Garmin hinders me from pushing myself further in the intensity of my run. It motivates me to run further, but I don't think I'm running harder/faster. If I see that I am going at a faster than usual pace, I will tell myself to slow down and not kill myself and save some energy for later ....

  3. I just finished reading The Extra Mile by Pam Reed and she was anorexic AND an ultrarunner. From what she wrote that our bodies do adapt to what we give it (or don't) but it runs more efficiently if we feed it certain things at certain times.

  4. I gel every five miles if I am running more than 13 miles. If I am running 12, I take one gel in the middle and if I am running 11 or less I just drink water. I do think that our bodies adapt to what we give them or don't (look at the marathoners who used to run with NOTHING, not even water back in the day) although I think we also are better educated now and know what are bodies need, and properly fueling our bodies helps them be healthier and stronger and makes us better runners. That's my thoughts on it. :) Fun post!

  5. I could not live without compression sleeves. I am new to gels but have noticed they do help sustain me in long runs. its like an epidural during labor: if you have to get it done, why not make it more enjoyable?

  6. I definitely agree that energy gels are very mental. I am the same as you, I only use them for LR and races. I also feel that during raced however we are pushing our threshold harder and there for our energy depleats more quickly. It is very interesting how gear effects running I think. Before I had a garmin I could careless what my pace was and I admittedly obsessed and have improved my speed significantly. I'm not sure I have a yes or no answer but this is definitely very thought provoking.

  7. Interesting post!
    Hmmm...about the carbs/sugars. I do think we can train to go long times without them, but to really put out energy in a race for a much faster pace than training, I think it's a wise idea to have some carbs going in. And test run it in training a few times. Just my thoughts :)

  8. From an avid over thinker (especially while running) no you're not over thinking :)

    I've tested many of my theories of what I need to train or run a race. Maybe the results are mostly mental but they seem to help.

    1. My Garmin keeps me on goal pace.
    2. Fueling during long runs? I've tried without and with less and hit a wall big time.
    3. My iPod. I don't use it all the time. Only when I need a boost during long runs and it works!

    Like I said maybe it's all in my head and not my legs :)

  9. I'm an academic so I've been trained to analyze, analyze, think, analyze, and think some more. I am pretty sure from experience (hitting a wall physically and almost passing out) that I need some calories coming in on my longer runs (anything over 10 miles). When I have a poor quality run or race, I can almost always link it to poor hydration, poor nutrition, or a lack of rest. Occasionally, this gets compounded by psyching myself out.

    I will say that my Garmin can be a hindrance because I'll sometimes slow myself down when I could probably give it a faster go. I don't listen to my ipod much when running anymore except when on the dreadmill in part because I am more in the moment when I run without it. But being in the moment on the treadmill just makes me want to get off of it. :)

  10. I've totally thought about this a few times. I think we might not need the supplements as much as we think. Someone running faster for a long distance race would need less Gu or chomps because their body can store more glycogen better than the slow runner and also because the slower runner is on the course longer and thus needs more nutrition.

    I can do 15 Miles and feel great without the extras. I just use Nuun or something similar. For a race I feel the need or that I should take something midway- which is way less than before when I would take at least 2 gels or chomps during a half marathon. I think there is a validity to taking these nutritions during a long event or long training day because our muscles can only store so much energy- bur at the same time, I think we could cut back on the amount and still feel good.

  11. I think a lot of running for me is mental - though - I do try to eat something if I've been running for over an hour - I just don't want to feel awful in the end!

    And, running gear 5 yrs ago vs today - I was just barely beginning but my husband, a gear a holic, made sure I had the best right from the start. The only thing I've added is the smartphone to measure my runs.

  12. Cannot offer any useful thoughts here but sure enjoyed reading your post and the comments it has provoked.

  13. I totally agree with the garmin making a HUGE difference in my time and training....and iPod is very helpful as well, books on tape keep my mind occupied when I'm not running with other people.

    I've only taken a gu once, and it was on my 16 mile run. Couldn't tell if it helped or not, but it probably did...

  14. A lot of running is mental, but you can't out-think a bonk, so gels and hydration aren't optional. Everyone has different needs, so one person might need a gel every 5 miles and another needs it every 10, but it's still critical. It's also a big part to feeling ok again after a hard run, which helps your overall training.

    I do think a lot of people are overdependent on music for running!

  15. I love this post mainly cause the back and forth made me giggle because I am so totally like that!! I think it could really go both ways, it might not help but it might. It could be mental or it could really work!! see I am so like you!!

  16. I love all of my gear! It probably isn't necessary, but it does make it a lot more fun!


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