Your Mileage May Vary!

Your mileage may vary. So will mine. That’s an interesting statement with which we are all familiar. Those automobile ads making such proclamations are so common, but it’s also helpful to think about the mileage we get out of our bodies.

I’m going to talk about mileage and the human body in two specific ways today. In a very general sense we’ll examine the concept of making your body last a lifetime, and some of the aspects related to the care, maintenance, and performance of your inner beast. I’m also going to revisit the subject of running a mile, and the correlative value it has with health, longevity, and athleticism.

Getting long mileage out of your body means keeping it healthy, and keeping it fit. Just like an automobile, the body needs to stay reasonably tuned up to function optimally and to last up to its (genetic) potential. 

Health is a product of the basics. Eat a nutrient-dense wholesome diet that contains little to no junk, fast, or overly-processed foods. Get plenty of high quality sleep. Move a lot and get ample amounts of general daily activity. Pay attention to ergonomics and create healthy workstations and personal environments. And have awareness of self, stress, relationships, and attitude – and appreciate the impact they have on your well-being. Combining those five components of lifelong health pays huge dividends in productivity, success, and overall life satisfaction. Your health care costs (and time investments) will be lower and your participation in more of life will be higher.

Fitness is a result of exercise. This is generally recognized as an official process that we “dress out” for and which develops measurable capacities such as strength, endurance, and range of motion. But when exercise is taken to a higher level, it becomes training which gives it greater meaning and purpose, leading to more consistency and higher results. And ultimately, when we play and compete in a sport, or any number of them, we develop our athletic skillset to the highest level. Doing all this allows us to achieve peak performances, and this carries over into other areas of our lives, such as self-esteem and mindset.

Starting with a health-first approach, and then developing athletic fitness, in which we have adequate amounts of strength, speed, power, agility, and endurance, allows us to sustain athletic longevity. This is the condition in which we get the longest mileage out of our bodies. None of this is overly expensive or time-consuming. In fact, it’s time-enhancing. Ask any individual who is truly healthy and high-performing if they feel great most of the time and if they think their athletic investment is “worth it.” They’ll always say “Absolutely Yes!”

I’ve got hundreds of free resources on the website in the form of articles, podcasts, and videos which dive into the nuts and bolts of lifelong health and peak athletic performance. I’m certain that everyone can find an item or two in this ever-growing collection that speaks to their individual needs or interests. That’s one of my goals with my business. I’d like to help you not only make your body last a lifetime, but to feel empowered to live athletically through your entire lifespan. I’m hoping to do the same.

Now on to this “running the mile” thing. Running is one of my major wheelhouse items. I’ve worked in running performance for a very long time coaching, training, and rehabbing runners of all types and abilities. I’ve done a lot of running myself. I’ve raced every distance from the 100 meters to the ultramarathon (no kidding). I’ve studied running biomechanics. I’ve worked in running shoe research and retail sales. I know a thing or three about running. But don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to be a self-aggrandizing jerk. I’ll always be a humble student (or try hard to be) of life, sport, and human locomotion, among other things. 

I have a studied viewpoint about running and I think I can boil it down in a few sentences. Everybody (barring those with locomotion-limiting orthopedic conditions and systemic problems) should be able to run a little. This is one (but not the only one) of the major athletic capacities I uphold for the functional, athletic human. And it doesn’t take a lot of running to develop and maintain this ability through the lifespan.

In general terms regarding locomotion, I have 3 requirements for every optimized human beast. We all should possess the ability to:

  1. Run a 40-yard dash and not blow a hammie (or anything else) in the process. Time doesn’t matter but it should look and feel like sprinting. Explosive speed wins on the court and field, and it counts when you need to escape an unseen and oncoming bus.
  2. Run (jog) a mile without stopping to walk due to exhaustion. This has always been viewed in the literature as a valid test of aerobic power (VO2max) and a marker of health/longevity. Athletically, the terms conditioning and stamina apply well to the mile.
  3. Walk 5 miles continuously. This is synonymous with high step count activity levels and basic endurance.

Those requirements should be doable with relative ease, on demand, back to back if necessary, and day after day. This is just one basic competency along with strength, agility, and sports skills but it’s a big one.

Many athletes and runners run lots more than this basic requirement. I don’t need to convince them to run. Most everyone can walk 5 miles (until they can’t and wonder why) as long as they keep at it. But I do have to persuade a lot of people to understand and embrace the benefits and necessities of sprinting. And there are quite a few runners who can nail the locomotion requirements but their strength and agility is lacking severely. Many bikers refuse to run at all because they hate it and lots of lifters won’t run because it affects their gains. But in the end, giving up those 3 aforementioned abilities hurts them. All I’m saying is that we need to be able to hit those requirements, and keep being able to do so, through most of the lifespan. Don’t shoot the messenger. Many folks get pissed and belligerent when they are hit with the truth too directly. But I’m not sure I can lay this out much differently.

A few years back, I wrote “Could Ya, Should Ya, Would Ya…Run a Mile?” This was a treatise on the scientific rationale behind the value of being able to run a mile. I wasn’t saying you had to run a 5k, or a half-marathon. Just one, decent mile. The almost funny thing about this is that you don’t hardly have to do any specific running training to be able to run a mile. A tennis or basketball player can do it easily because of what they do in their sport. CrossFitters, or even just all-around gym rats can do it. Honestly, if you work out regularly, even in swimming and biking – and do just a little running here and there…you can run a mile. Check yourself once in a while (such as every couple months) and don’t let this ability slip away from you.

Next up I wrote “The Locomotion: Is Everybody Doing It?” This made reference to the Grand Funk Railroad’s amazing song but it also provided a framework for evaluating your mile run time as a performance standard. I provided a calculation system which was age-scaled and gender-appropriate based on world records in the mile run. We took a look at a client example (Mike) and discussed how he used this test and eventually exceeded the standard with a very modest amount of running in his training program.

Then came “The Minimalist Mile – How Much is Enough?”  This missive told the story of how I approached that mile standard in my own way. At the time I was 54 and I’d decided that I wanted to run the mile in a time that was equivalent to 5 minutes plus my age in seconds. I managed a 5:53 to hit my performance marker but I was able to do this on less than 6 miles per week (and many times only 2-3 miles per week) of actual run training. That was fun but the big take home was that I blended that run training into the balanced athletic development system (strength, speed, power, agility, and endurance) that I use at TLA. I could run a 6-minute mile but this was also at a time when I could deadlift twice my bodyweight (nothing special in true athletic terms but great for me) and do a variety of other athletic activities at a reasonably high level.

Let’s fast forward 4 years and mix a little humor with science. I’m 58 now and last year was a tough one for me. I had an accident and a major reconstruction of my shoulder. Despite all my efforts, there was some deconditioning and weight gain. I’m still rehabilitating and it’s going well but I “came off the couch” this spring in ostensibly the worst shape of my life. I managed to prove that fact when the Training Tribe ran the first of several mile time trials we do every year. I ran 7:20 and this was officially the slowest timed 1-mile max effort I’d ever run in my life. I started out as a team sport player (baseball and basketball) and when they put the watch on us in middle school I was faster than my 58 year-old self. I wasn’t surprised and I wasn’t disgusted but I was indeed somewhat disappointed.

I got back into that 2-3 miles per week of running as part of my routines. This is actually built into the programming I write for the Training Tribe, which is our nationwide online coaching and group training platform. I’ve been getting together with some of the local members 2-3 times per week and I’ve been feeling a bit less slovenly. We ran the second TT last week. I posted 6:43. I’ll do it again in a few weeks and shoot for a 6:20. That would be an “A-level” outcome for this year but I’ve been pondering a little science project for the future. Sub-6 at 60 has a nice ring to it…but we’ll see because as all of us Lifetime Athletes know, a lot can change in 2 years.

So back to the mileage thing and summing everything up. Do whatever you can to stay healthy and fit and keep your machine (body) running smooth for life. If you need help with that, check out some of my resources or sign up for Coaching. Join T2. Take the Fit for the Field online course. And then on that mile running topic, try to maintain the ability to run just one decent mile as you move along in this amazing journey called LIFE! As always, I wish you the best and thanks so much for being with me today!

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