How do you get out of a bonk?

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Scott Warr

If you do this for long enough, you will be visited by Captain Bonk on a training run or race.  Some people even plan to bonk on training runs!  What do YOU do to pull yourself together?

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17 comments
  • Cheers Scott!
    I find it’s often a mental thing with me, as by the time I finish a run I’m feeling okay again. Mantras help, and I love hearing other people’s, as does reminding yourself of your ‘why’ – which was why JDF seemed the obvious guy for this topic, as he discussed it so eloquently in the ‘Pandoras Box’ episode.
    And if it’s a serious bonk, the ACDC’s Thunderstruck is yet to fail.

  • I can feel the onset of it in my upper back. I feel tight between my shoulder blades and I can feel my shoulder rounding. Not good. My running form will suffer if I don’t do something. It might look a bit funny, but I will stop running for about 20 seconds and do a quick 10-12 reps of an exercise called the bent over “Y”. Hinge at the hips, chest over toes and arms hanging at the sides. Then I raise my arms up to form a letter “y” while squeezing my shoulder blades together. Hold for a moment, then release and bring my arms back down. It’s like a reset of my body and gets a chain reaction of muscles working together again. I might look like a bird about to take flight, but it works for me!

  • Like any decent super-villain, Captain Bonk has many powers and many disguises. He most commonly comes at me with his ‘mind-bonk’ and ‘energy-drain’ attacks, but he does have other weapons at his disposal.

  • Don’t get in a bonk to begin with. Fuel early to the point your body can digest the food. Train your body to use fat more efficiently. Find foods you can consume later in the long ultra miles. Pray that you have done enough.

  • I’ve only ever managed by eating a ton of food and slowing down.

    I certainly haven’t mastered this, but I think the ideal is to prevent it by staying at an aerobic pace so that you burn a higher proportion of fat to sugar. Gradually replenish sugars and you should be able to stave off a bonk for a long time. Makes sense in theory, but you have to train system correctly for a long time to manage it.

    Of course, the more aggressive your goal the tougher it’ll be to stay aerobic. The Maff podcast is relevant here, and Dr. Mark and the Soc Doc…

  • I learned something new regarding bonking on my long run last Friday. I have been eating a diet with very few carbs for the past few months including last Friday. During my 21 mile run on Friday, The only thing I ate was one package of GU chomps at mile 10, then at mile 18 my hamstrings and calves were killing me; to the point I could not run, or at least my brain convinced me that walking was my only option. The pain dissipated very little over the last 3 miles to my car. The pain was close to the worst I have ever felt, even during my ultras which included two 50 milers and a several 50K’s. In my mind I was saying “I am not in that good of shape and my legs are going to be so trashed I will not be able to run for a week”. I thought this because this is the type of pain I feel in my some of my races after which I was to sore to run for at least a week. However, I went home and ate a carb rich dinner and breakfast on Saturday and was surprised that my legs felt great. I was able to put in a 10 mile run on Saturday and my legs felt great. This is what I think I learned and am willing to see what the Nation thinks: Bonking is more than a lack of energy overall, that my leg fatigue and the corresponding pain was due to a lack of carbs, and the fatigue was not due to pushing my body over its current fitness level. Any thoughts? Am I off my rocker in interpreting a bonk in this manner?

  • Check out the Phil Maffetone pod-cast, David. Sounds like some metabolic efficiency training might be a solution.

  • Living in Texas means training in heat and humidity. I’m that runner you see with a glaze of salt covering their face, shoulders and arms. Over the course of several seasons, I’ve learned that hydration and electrolyte balance/replenishment are key to softening the bonk. I can slug through a carb-bonk and recover with a couple snacks…but an electrolyte-bonk can potentially end my run for the day. I use a combination of s-tabs, NUUN and coconut water. I monitor how often I have to urinate and check to make sure my hands aren’t swelling (a tell-tale sign). This season, I want to experiment with Jurek’s homemade rice-milk drink…my stomach tolerates liquid much better than solid food…especially in the heat. Cheers!

  • If I know I’ve been eating and drinking fairly well, I slow down, eat something that’s pure sugar (like jelly beans), and hope for a recovery. For me, it’s often a matter of low blood sugar.

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