According to Chris McDougall, author of “Born to Run”, we are born runners. Running is in our survival DNA.
Our distant ancestors...
...lacking long-range weapons, likely ran down game as they followed herds through the savanna. And they developed the clever physiology to do just that.
They developed the ability to sweat. Most of their prey needed to pant to cool down.
And they moved upright. Four-legged animals on the run have to breathe in rhythm with their stride. Not our ancestors. Moving upright, they didn't have to match their breathing to their stride. Meaning they could outlast their prey.
Our upright, sweating, distance-running ancestors had a distinct, food-chain advantage when they migrated from Africa.
Fast forward 70,000 years...
...and the good news is we still stand upright. We still sweat. And we still have legs and ankles and knees – most of our inherited running DNA is still intact. We've got the potential.
We just have to follow a few simple, time-tested rules passed down from our East African ancestors.
They said (and I paraphrase):
Go Slowly, Go Steadily, Take a Little Time Off (Train Smart)
Start slowly – walk and run. Or just walk to start.
If our ancestors did in fact run down game by outlasting it, they must have done a lot of walking.
The message for us is: mix walking in with your running. In fact, start out walking and keep using walking as a way to stay healthy. It worked for the people who got us here. Why not for us?
This is also a big thing. I'm guessing our ancestors could last a few days without eating but sooner or later they had to get back out there. No fridges, no KFC, no Red Bull.
No way around it, it helps if you carve time out a little time regularly for running.
To start, try running every other day. Three days a week. And don't cram two runs in on the weekend. You'll break something.
Most experts recommend that you increase total weekly distance by no more than 10% per week.
That's weekly distance. Not daily distance.
But what about the ultra you want to do? If you start at 1 km a week, by the magic of compounding you'll be walking or running 142 km per week at the end of one year. Which is pretty much ultra-distance training.
So slow and steady, alright? Cool.
Take a Little Time Off...
Picture our ancestors around a bone-littered campfire, in the aftermath of a feast of wildebeast. Maybe some tending theirs or others wounds. But apart from periodic digestive blurts, I'm guessing it was pretty quiet. Maybe some snoring. Maybe a lot.
They needed time to let their bodies repair and rebuild - before they moved on again in search of food.
We're descended from them.
Rest days are absolutely critical.
Don't Worry About Age
The differences in distance running ability between men and women narrows considerably the greater the distance and the older we get. Sixty-five year old men and women have about the same distance running capability. Not only that, but the running capability of a 65 year old roughly equals that of a 19 year old male. How cool is that? What other sport or activity allows you to age that gracefully.
Our ancestors have passed down DNA capable of keeping us running well into our later years.
It's a Gift From Our Ancestors
And what a gift.
That's the spirit I want to celebrate throughout this site.
I'm going to be talking a lot about training and what I've experienced over the years, and what science has been turning up.
With some smart training, it's ours to take advantage of.
I would love to hear from you about your running stories. And especially your successes at beating back time.
Just drop me a note below and we can get our conversation, our community, underway.
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