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I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

May 11, 2014

THE ESSENTIAL SHEEHAN: Old School Rules for the Road

EmoticonOld school guys like old school rules. Easy to undertand, direct to the point and no room for mis-interpretations. No ifs or buts about it.

On pages 69-71 of THE ESSENTIAL SHEEHAN, the reader is gifted with 21  practical guidelines for runners of all ages to consider.   Again, we quote them in toto for all  to consume.  Sharing is good.

“TRIED AND TRUE RULES of the road for runners:

1. Keep a record of your morning pulse.  Lie in bed for a few minutes after you awake and then take your pulse.  As your training progresses, it will gradually become slower, and after 3 months or it will plateau.  From then on, should you have a rate 10 or more beats higher than your morning norm, you have not recovered from your previous day’s run, races , or other stresses. Take  a day or more off until the pulse returns to normal.

2. Weigh regularly. Initially, you will not lose much weight, and getting on and off the scales will seem a bore. Subsequent losses should be in the area of one-half to one pound a week. This equals 250 to 500 calories a day of output of energy over intake of food.  What you lose in fat you will put on in muscle. Running consumes 100 calories a mile, and there are 3,500 calories to a pound, so you can see weight loss will be slow unless you do heavy mileage.

3. Do your exercises daily. The more you run, the more muscle imbalance occurs. The calf, hamstring (back thigh), and low-back muscles become short, tight, and inflexible. They have to be stretched.  On the other hand, the shin, the quad (front thigh), and belly muscles become relatively weak. They must be strengthened. There are specific exercises geared to strengthening these muscles.

4. Eat to run. Eat a good, high-protein breakfast, then have a light lunch.  Run at least 2, preferably 3 hours after your last meal.  Save the carbohydrates for the meal after the run to replenish muscle sugar.

5. Drink plenty of fluids. Take sugar-free drinks up to 15 minutes before running. Then, take 12 to 16 ounces of easily tolerated juices, half-strength “ades, ” tea with honey or sugar, defizzled Coke, etc. before setting out.  In winter, that should be all you need.  In summer, take an additional 10 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes during the run.

6. Run on an empty colon. Running causes increased peristalsis, cramps, and even diarrhea.  Having a bowel movement before running and particularly before racing prevents these abdominal symptoms.

7. Wear the right clothes.  In winter, this means a base of thermal underwear followed by several layers of cotton or wool shirts, at least one a turtleneck.  Wear a ski mask and mittens. Use nylon, Gora-Tex, Lycra, or polypropylene if necessary to protect against wind and wed. In summer, the main enemy is radiant heat. Remember to wear white clothes and use some kind of head covering.

8. Find your shoes and stick to them. Heavy people do better in tennis shoes and basketball sneakers. High-arched feet do better with narrow heels. Morton’s feet (short big toes, long second toes) may need arch supports in the shoes.  If a shoe works, train in it, race in it, and wear it to work.

9. The fitness equation is 30 minutes at a comfortable pace four times a week. Your body should be able to tell you that “comfortable” pace.  If in doubt, use the “talk test.”  Run at a speed at which you could carry on a conversation with a companion.

10. Run economically. Do not bounce or overstride. You should lengthen your stride by pushing off, not by reaching out. Do not let your foot get ahead of your knee. This means your knee will be slightly bent at footstrike. Run from the hips down with the upper body straight up and used only for balance. Relax.

11. Belly-breathe. This is not easy, and must be practiced and consciously done just prior to a run or a race. Take air into your belly and exhale against a slight resistance, either through pursed lips or by a grunt or a groan.  This uses the diaphragm correctly and prevents the “stich.”

12. Wait for your second wind. It takes about 6 to 10 minutes and a one-degree rise in body temperature to shunt the blood to the working muscles.  When that happens, you will experience a light, warm sweat and you know what the “second wind” means. You must run quite slowly until this occurs. Then, you can dial yourself to “comfortable,” put yourself on automatic pilot, and enjoy.

13. Run against traffic. Two heads are better than one in preventing an accident.  Turn your back on a driver, and you are giving up control of your life. At night, wear some reflective material or carry a small flashlight.

14. Give dogs their territory. Cross to the other side of the road and pick up some object you can brandish at them. Never try to outrun  a dog. Face the dog and keep talking until it appears safe to go on.

15. Learn to read your body. Be aware of signs of overtraining. If the second wind brings a cold, clammy sweat, head for home.  Establish a (Distant Early Warning) line that alerts you to impending trouble.  Loss of zest, high morning pulse, lightheadedness on standing, scratchy throat, swollen glands, insomnia, and palpitations are some of the frequent harbingers of trouble.

16. Do not run with a cold. A cold means you are overtrained. You have already run too much. Wait at least 3 days, preferably longer. Take a nap  the hour you would usually spend running.

17. Do not cheat on your sleep. Add an extra hour when in heavy training. Also, arrange for at least one or two naps a week, and take a long one after your weekend run.

18. When injured, find a substitute activity to maintain fitness.  Swim, cycle, or walk for the same time and at the same frequency you would normally run.

19. Most injuries result with a change in your training. A change in shoes, an increase in mileage (25 miles per week is the dividing line: at 50 miles per week the injury rate is doubled), hill or speed work, or a change in surface are all factors that can affect susceptibility to injury. Almost always there is some associated weakness of the foot, muscle strength/flexibility imbalance, or one leg shorter than the other.

20. Use of heel lifts, arch supports, modification of shoes, and corrective exercises may be necessary before you are able to return to pain-free running.

21. Training is a practical application of Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome. Stress is applied, the organism reacts, a suitable time is given to re-establish equilibrium, then stress is applied again. Each of us can stand different loads and needs different amounts of times to adapt.  You are an experiment of one. Establish your own schedule; do not follow anyone else’s. Listen to your body. Train, don’t strain.”

These “tried and true rules” the good doctor wrote in his 1980 book entitled “THIS RUNNING LIFE.” It is noteworthy that Dr. Sheehan’s prescriptions  predate by a decade or two  some of the supposedly “new-fangled” running concepts available in our internet-savvy and info-overload milieu.

Take for example,   Rule # 10 on Sheehan’s list which sounds so similar to  ChiRunning developed by American ultramarathoner Danny Dreyer in 1999.     

Another one is about belly breathing.  Just recently,   I read a Runner’s World article (http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/running-air-breathing-technique) which is adapted from a book “RUNNING ON AIR: The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter”, by Budd Coates, M.S., and Claire Kowalchik (Rodale, 2013). If the 2013 book is revolutionary, then Sheehan’s Rule # 11 on the list is the prequel to the revolution.

More and more, as I delve into the pages of THE ESSENTIAL SHEEHAN, the admiration for the man grows deeper. Dr. Sheehan was fond of using a quote from 2nd Century Church Father Irenaeus -  “The Glory of God is man fully functioning.” His life of running and his literary oeuvre do point to the obvious that  he was one human being fully functioning. 

No doubt, the good doctor is up there in heaven busy with a running clinic for the angels and saints.Emoticon


Illustrations by Monica Sheehan, taken from the pages of the book THE ESSENTIAL SHEEHAN.

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