How to burn fat
What would happen if you learned how to burn fat and use it as a fuel source and not have to rely so heavily on glycogen stores when you race?
How many Kenyan runners have we seen on television running at race pace but still look like they are not even laboring from the pace?
The elite runners
I am sure you all have seen this and wondered, ‘why are they so good'.
Despite what others say about this, I don't believe the Kenyans are any more able then you or I to run efficiently and effectively.
There are American men and women (and other Nationalities) bettering Kenyan men and women in races around the world. Why?
The methods the best use
I have heard far too many comments over the years from ‘I am not good enough‘, ‘I don't have the genetics or ‘talent' to run well', ‘I was never much of a runner but still try'.
There are many well-meaning, hard working people out there training well but not training specific to the goals they have set for themselves.
The secret to running well and dropping significant time off your personal best time, regardless of race distance is this.
Learn how to burn fat, rather then carbohydrate, when you race.
You teach your body to store more glycogen (carbohydrates) the faster you run your long runs.
The trick is getting your body used to burning fat even at speed of higher intensity.
The faster you run the more carbohydrates you use.
We often slow down because 1) we run out of glycogen (far less glycogen stores as compared to fat stores) and 2) we have not trained the body to conserve glycogen and burn fat at faster speeds.
Pete Pfitzinger, one of our nation's top marathoners with a personal best of 2.11.43, put it like this,
As you increase your endurance training, you rely more on fat and less on carbohydrates at a given speed. As a result, your glycogen stores last longer. In a marathon, that means that “the wall” moves closer and closer to the finish line.-Pete Pfitzinger
The physiological facts
Does it take genetics to run fast, sure. I am not delusional to believe that a man running a 2.06 marathon or a woman going under 2.30 for the marathon distance doesn't have a big engine.
Have you ever wondered though why the Kenyan men and women are as good as they are?
There are many of these runners who spent their upbringing running to and from school, have upwards of 10,000-15,000 miles on their legs before they start a disciplined training plan.
Talent and hard work
That being said, the best don't rest on talent and if they do, they won't stay there very long.
It doesn't matter if your a 4 hour marathoner or a 2.10 marathoner.
You will get results when you switch your mentality from long slow distance training to training longer periods of time at more aggressive efforts.
You may have all the motivation in the world, can run long runs at very fast splits, but if you are not taking your recovery days just as serious and backing off, don't expect to get a return on your investment.
It is not that Americans, Europeans and other non-Kenyan, Ethiopian or Moroccan runners are not as talented.
We, at least most Americans and Europeans, don't run to school.
We have the luxuries that some of the best runners in the world, those that so many want to emulate, don't have.
There are school girls in Kenya that run 3 times a day!
We are not forced to use our legs like some people in the world.
Think if we here in America or other runners from other parts of the world had to run to school, to work, in order to get from place to place.
It isn't necessarily that runners from poor countries that are dominating mid to long distance running are more gifted and talented, they simply run more and have for years before most other runners even start.
If there is an athlete with 10,000 miles on his or her legs, who do you think has a slight edge over someone just starting out?
Fat versus carbohydrate
You have to train progressively harder and spend longer periods of time at or below race pace you are wishing to race at to achieve that specific goal.
There is no way around it.
I have a personal goal of hitting 2.15.00 for the marathon.
It is a 5.09 per mile pace.
I have a best of 2.19.35, a 5.19 per mile average.
I will have to spend a great deal of time at paces faster then 5.09 per mile to hit that goal time and am not on the delusion that it will be an easy task.
Running 100-130 mile weeks comprised of 90% easy running will not get me or you to our race goals, if they are pace specific, that is.
You can only do in a race what you’ve practiced in training.- Italian Distance Coach-Renato Canova
Coach Canova's training methods is where I comprise the majority of my training currently.
Say you are a half-marathon who wants to eventually run that distance at 7.55 mile pace.
How much of your week do you devote to running at they pace or near it.
It is very easy to simply go out and run easy miles, that should be the case if you are early on in your training build up.
…but what happens when you have many weeks of build up and your still not focusing on that 7.55 mile pace.
How can you ask of yourself to hold 7.55 mile pace for 13 miles straight when you may not have practiced doing it for 6 miles, 8 miles?
Don't get frustrated. Adjust how you train and the results will follow.
How many of your friends brag about how many miles they run or how many times over the years have you heard runners talking about their weekly mileage?
If you burn more calories, you will lose more fat than if you burn fewer calories. Lower intensity exercise is only better for fat loss if you exercise long enough to make up for the lower number of calories used per minute.” -Pete Pfitzinger
Listen, running high mileage comprised of slow distance runs will not get you to a specific time in a specific distance.
More isn't always better.
I have went as 142 miles a week in training and guess what, I ran my best marathon to date off of 90 mile weeks.
Running that high of mileage left me feeling flat.
Quality over quantity is the rule.
Can runners putting in 140+ mile weeks still run great times, absolutely, but everyone is physiologically different.
If someone says, ‘Hey, I ran 100 miles this week. How far did you run?' Ignore him! What the hell difference does it make? – Coach Bill Bowerman
Running highs weeks, comprised of runs not stressing your lactate tolerance will only make you a high mileage runner and take you away from your specific race goal.
Easy running has it's place but it doesn't prepare a runner if they have a time specific goal.
You must spend a great deal of time practicing at or far below your goal race pace.
There is no one on the planet like you but there are people in this world competing in our sport that can accomplish the same performance on 60 miles a week as someone putting in 110 miles a week.
More isn't better
Should I run my long runs slow or fast. I heard you burn fat by running slow, not by running fast?
You will teach your body to burn fat and conserve glycogen by doing long runs. Your body will rely more on fat and less on glycogen thus preventing glycogen depletion.
This is exactly what we want to do regardless of distance but more importantly the longer you race and run.
Have you ever gotten to mile 8 in a half-marathon or mile 17 in a marathon and knew, somehow, from somewhere, a bear had decided to take a break on your back?
Oh…let me tell you, I have been there! It is not a friendly experience as I am sure you know.
The trick is running at faster speeds at or getting near your goal race pace so that your utilizing fats, rather then carbs, at higher efforts that come closer to your race pace.
What we want to do is prolong the amount of time we do not have to rely on carbohydrates and save it for when it truly counts, in that last 5K in a half-marathon or last 6 miles in a marathon.
Your body will grow accustomed to burning fats at slower speeds but will it be able to utilize it at speeds nearing your goal race pace?
Anyone can run slow and learn how to burn fat. It takes skill to run long distances at aggressive paces.
This is where sheer focus and an action plan comes into the picture.