As published in UltraRunning Magazine Online
Runners, beware, you are about to enter the twilight zone. This is the dimension that exposes long-held beliefs that cause of chronic burn-out. It is a journey into a wondrous land that defies dogma and disposes of the monotonous. A place where mindless, boring exercise goes to die.
Running can be boring. Especially when you do it a lot, and for a long time. There are days when I can’t bring myself to go for a run. Ever have one of those? You know, when the thought of going for a run makes you want to clean the kitchen, take out the trash or work on a project, like any project? It’s a quandary, especially if you’re trying to prepare for something like a half-marathon, an ultra marathon or whatever.
The solution? Try this out: reading. That’s right. Reading while training. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s really not. Read on.
I’ve been putting a healthy amount of my weekly training in while reading the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times and the New York Times. I’m even adding in a regular dose of the Weekly Standard, Backpacker Magazine and an occasional book (usually non-fiction). I’m in the middle of Getting to US, a profile of some of the greatest coaches in sports by Seth Davis, and What Unites Us, reflections on patriotism by ousted CBS anchor Dan Rather.
The question of course is how is it possible to read and run at the same time. It isn’t. I don’t run while I read. And I don’t have to because I incorporate a lot of cross training into my schedule. The elliptical machine is one of my favorites, as is hiking at a steep grade on the treadmill wearing a 10 lbs weight vest. Another is simply riding a stationary bike. Each of these workouts can get my heart rate to an aerobic level. They also give my body a chance to rebuild after long and/or difficult workouts, all while catching up with what’s happening in DC, Pyongyang or Pennsylvania’s 18th district.
I’ve come to look forward to my reads during training. In fact, I truly believe I would have given up running ultras a long time ago if I hadn’t started incorporating reading into my training regimen several years back. What’s more is I’m usually blasting my thumbprint radio on Pandora while I’m checking the sports page or the latest Op-Ed. Did you note the juxtaposition of the WSJ NY Times? (Trying to stay balanced my friends).
In addition to rewarding my neurons, reading while training forces me to stay in a recovery zone. That is because pushing into the red zone makes it impossible to focus - on text, paragraphs or even titles. Everything becomes a blur. Staying in my recovery zone allows me to build a solid base of fitness, the foundation for running strong at any distance.