Monday, January 24, 2005

Fat of the Land

I can't figure out if I'm becoming more like a runway model or a Hollywood starlet, but I'm beginning to obsess a bit about bodyfat. No, not theirs, mine. I can't get over the notion that simply losing a few percentage points of bodyfat will result in that great pancea of all weekend warriors, the 'free' improvement. The idea that a new piece of equipment or a change in form will result in an increase in performance for what appears to be little or no effort.

Trust me, I am fully aware that this is a pipe dream and no one knows better than I, that nothing is for free. But being an obsessed 44 year-old man with a weakness for every bit of new technology and gear that comes along with the promise of better performance makes me, in the parlance of salespeople everywhere, a textbook 'laydown'. There is no easier sale than to another salesperson. Back in the day when I sold cars and stocks and encyclopedias door-to-door, we called folks like me "pooches" and the opportunity to sell something to them, "cherry-picking". Ahhh, the good old days.

But back to my fat. I have been busy consulting and I'm going to share my results with you. I fired off the following e-mail to Jeff Galloway,

Dear Mr. Galloway,

I am a great admirer of yours and greatly appreciative of your contributions to the sport (more like a religion to some of us) of marathoning.

I have run eight marathons in the past four years as a result of following your 10 and 1 program. I have been a pace group leader at a Marathon Clinic for the last six of them, a hugely enjoyable and tremendously gratifying undertaking.

Is there a rough correlation between percentage of body fat and performance for long distance track and field athletes? I've heard that the reduction of every percentage of body fat is worth about a one percent increase in performance for endurance runners. I know that most elite marathoners have a body fat of between 3-7%.

I am a 44 year old recreational marathoner and in the past twelve months I have run three marathons and a 67K Ultramarathon. My best race times in the past year were, marathon time - 3:53, half marathon time - 1:41 and best 10K time - 43 minutes. I am 6'1" and weigh 200 pounds. I look much more like the sprinter and football player than a marathoner! I would like to attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon when I turn 45 and my qualifying time is 3:30.

Based on a caliper test, my current body fat is about 15%. I have been below 10% body fat before (twenty years ago!) and feel that between now and October a body weight of 185 pounds is a realistic goal.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

I've even started a Blog about my goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon in October of this year!

Best regards, Vince Hemingson

To which Jeff Galloway, bless his speedy, Olympic-qualifying, little soul replied;


Congratulations on your progress in running. Yes, there are some signficant benefits from running that are not bestowed by any other experience. In all of my running schools, retreats and coaching I have learned that this blending of mind, body, and spirit is like solid gold. Times in races are like a facade of shiny tin in comparison.

As long as you approach your Boston qualifying as a game--and not make that your means of running satisfaction, I support you. I've heard from over 10,000 runners who have qualified for Boston using my methods. I believe that you are fully capable of doing this, with the right training and the right weather on race day.

Get a copy of my books--especially NEW MARATHON. Both are listed below. They may be available at Running Room stores. If you cannot find them, you can order them from our website, autographed and can email questions as you read.

You'll see in the Prediction Table in the back of GALLOWAY'S BOOK ON RUNNING SECOND EDITION, that your 10K performance predicts about 3:25. Here is what I recommend:

1. going to a 3-1 ratio on long runs--and run them at 11 min per mile.

2. This slower pace and more liberal walks will allow you to increase the long one to 29 or 30 miles--which gives a potential improvement of 10 min or so

3. Do mile repeats on the non long run weekends as noted in my book--in the time assigned. You could run a few more of them than is listed on the schedule.

4. Once a week, (Tues or Thurs) run a 10-12 K, and run the middle 5K at race pace, walking for 30 seconds, every 4 minutes. This is what I recommend in the race itself.

You would also benefit greatly from my one-day running schools, and retreats (beach and mountains, including Lake Tahoe). These are highly motivating and offer individualized information.

Jeff Galloway e-coaching to your goals

Any of my running buddies reading this must be laughing their heads off. I doubt that few people have recommended Jeff Galloway's books on running, especially his Marathon book, more than me over the past few years. As a pace group leader I tell everyone two things.

"The best twenty bucks you will ever spend as a runner will be on Jeff Galloway's Marathon book. And for 'Gawd's Sake', if you're serious about running, get a heart rate monitor!"

Now, imagine my delight to discover yet another e-mail from the inimitable Mr. Galloway in my inbox shortly after the first one. Jeff followed up with;


I forgot to answer your question about body fat. Certainly some reduction will help your times. I hear from many runners who try to reduce the waistline, and run out of gas during training. Read the fat-burning sections in my books and let me know if you have any questions.

Jeff Galloway
e-coaching to your goals

So Jeff has gifted me with some great coaching advice and some definite food for thought. Right off the bat, I can see that my over-all strategy that I laid out at the beginning of my Boston or Bust Blog is pretty sympatico with his suggestions. The biggest surprise is his suggestion that my long runs come every three weeks and that my pace on those days should be 11 minute miles.

Currently, I tend to stack my long runs so that after increasing the distance for two Sundays in a row, I then drop back a little on the third Sunday and then increase my long run distance for two more consecutive Sundays. My understanding of Jeff's writings on marathoning leads me to believe that he thinks that at age 44, I am probably in need of more recovery time. Certainly this is something that I have experienced first hand over the past five years and a piece of advice I offer to everyone in my pace groups over the age of 40.

My pace on Sundays has been around 9:45, and I increase that to about 10:30-10:45 during the optional add-on mileage. I also go from 10 and 1's to 5 and 1's during the optional mileage.

The idea that really popped out in Jeff's e-mail is the suggestion that during my marathons I run for four minutes and then take 30 second walk breaks. THAT is fascinating. I am definitely going to have to mull that idea over. I'm looking forward to trying it out in some training runs in the next few weeks and I'll be sure to let you in on how it works!

Thanks, Jeff!


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