"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Quick Guide 11: Putting It Together

I know no one's going to try to put together their own plan from all the details I've given, but want an example of what one would look like. To be competitive at my age (55-60) in Minnesota at my preferred distance, 5K, I'd have to break 19 minutes; that would put me in the top 10-15. Here's what my training would look like at that point:

Monday: 5 easy (8.5 min./mile)
Tuesday AM: 5 with 6x100m strides
               PM: 7.5 with 4x1200m in 4:35 - 800m
Wednesday: 5 miles on trail
Thursday AM: 5 miles with 4x50m sprints
                PM: 7.5 with last 4 in 28
Friday: off
Saturday: 5 with a 1 Mile Race in 5:30 (or 1200m time trial, 10 minute rest, 400m time trial)
Sunday: 10 at 8:30-8:45/mile
Monday: [as above]
Tuesday AM: [as above]
               PM: 7.5 miles with 8x400m in 82 - 400m
Wednesday: [as above]
Thursday AM: [as above]
                PM: 7.5 with last 6 in 44
Friday: [as above]
Saturday: 5 with 5K race in 19:00
Sunday: [as above]

The plan looks a lot like many you can find, but with a few differences. It's considered to be both high volume and high intensity. There's more miles, more fast miles and the fast parts are faster. The easy running pace is slower, however - sometimes much slower than others would suggest. The reason for this is that other coaches are taking athletes capable of running much faster races and having them train for much faster races, but racing slower. I coach to be at one's absolute limit; perhaps I'm an over-achiever.

[Only one more post in this series!]

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Quick Guide 10: "Efficiency"

Sometimes you'll want to combine workouts, such as when you're planning days off and there's 7 different things I've suggested for each week.

Marathoners like putting the fast continuous run at the end of their endurance runs, so they can work on pace when already tired. Ultramarathoners sometimes put a sprint every 20 minutes or every 2 miles, to change the stress and lower the monotony.

Trail runners and those frequently injured like doing their interval workouts on hills. Running uphill decreases impact forces on the legs and running hard uphill causes one's heart rate to climb quickly. The literal downside is that you have less control over how long your recoveries are. The great miler John Walker used to do almost all of his training uphill because of injuries; his coach would drive him to the bottom of the hill, decreasing the recovery - but not many of us have someone who'd do that for us.

A number of coaches like having athletes do strides and drills before interval workouts, as a warm-up.

The biggest problem with combining workouts is that one generally ends up doing nothing well.

There are countless reports on how to "most efficiently" improve some aspect of training, but they all are problematic. They tend to be 12 week studies and you probably plan to be running a year from now, not just in 12 weeks. If you injure a muscle, you can find studies that show which exercise maximally stimulates that muscle and you might think that that's the one you should do - but you're not training to maximally stimulate one muscle.

You can combine all of the workouts I described into three workouts and there are 3 day per week training plans... but try to name anyone who successfully followed a plan like that for a year, much less several years.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Quick Guide 9: Strides and Drills

This is the seventh and last run I suggest for each week; any others should be easy recovery runs just to keep mileage up. If you run fewer than seven times per week, that gets covered in the next post.

In a strides run, once or twice each mile you should run 70-130 meters at about mile pace, if you're a distance runner (400-800m pace if you're regularly racing a mile or under). The idea is to be able to change speed and then return to the previous pace. These should not feel very taxing and you should rarely do more than 10 in any workout.

Alternatively, these roughly 100m sections can be used to focus on different aspects of running style, exaggerating some aspect - such as knee lift, back kick, ankle flexion, etc. (there's a ton of resources about these online). Personally, I hate doing these, but they do seem to help; my average pace late in the run is often faster than it was at the start.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Quick Guide 8: Sprints

I'm guessing that no one who reads this is a sprinter, so this will be short.

Running at maximal speed uses muscle fibers not often used, but which can aid at slower speeds. Most people can accelerate to top speed in 5 seconds (world class sprinters can take 15) and this is as long as a sprint need be. Three or four sprints is enough for non-sprinters to get benefits.

Running sprints up a steep hill has become popular and it has two positives: it requires one to lift the upper leg closer to horizontal than most runners ever do, increasing range of motion and it also decreases impact forces, which lowers the rate of injury. Hills should be under 12% grade or one's form usually alters.

Running at top speed on a slight downhill is the only form of assisted sprinting most people should try. Gravity can cause one to run faster than what their maximum speed would otherwise be and this can lead to gains in speed on flat ground. One must be very careful when doing these to avoid injury.

So, once per week, run a few all-out sprints of 40-50 meters. The time spent in recovery is unimportant.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Quick Guide 7: Terrain Runs

For most runners, this is a short run on grass or dirt, rather than road or track, preferably with some hills. Runners tend to lose some agility and balance if they only run on smooth surfaces. Running on hills, and running on uneven ground, use the muscles you use in running in a slightly different way. Cross-country and trail runners usually combine this with other workouts and I'll cover that soon in a different post.

If you want to be really detailed about it, these runs should feature hills the opposite of what you do in your interval runs: if you're doing 3-5 minute intervals that week, you should run hills that take 0.5-2 minutes; if you're running 0.5-2 minute intervals, you should run hills that take 3-5 minutes.

Long hills should be 4-6 percent grade, short hills 6-8 percent. Finding appropriate hills can be challenging, so many runners resort to inclined treadmills, but that eliminates the terrain aspect.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Quick Guide 6: Intervals

A lot of runners think interval workouts are both intimidating and boring, which is a contradiction if you think about it. "I hate this, I'm bad at it and all it does is make me tired and sore" - if this is what you're thinking, I'm planning another post in this series on how to get around some things one doesn't like.

Other than races, interval workouts will be the most challenging workouts I'll discuss. I think one of the problems with them is that runners don't have an idea of exactly what they should be doing or why they're doing it. There are two "whys" - these workouts are practice at race pace for some runners and also these are specific workouts for increasing maximal oxygen uptake (all workouts I'll talk about throughout this series will increase maximal oxygen uptake, but these are focused on that one aspect). Most runners can run at their maximal oxygen uptake rate for no more than 5-10 minutes before dipping into oxygen debt, at which point it becomes a lactic acid tolerance workout and I prefer to leave that to the time trials I covered in the last post. The plan is to run at a pace that brings one to the point where they're taking in air as quickly as possible and holding there for a bit, but stopping before it becomes too uncomfortable, then pulling back a bit to recover, then running hard again - and so on - until one has run as long as possible at the maximum uptake.

There are two workouts I'll give, with a ton of guidelines for each, so you can figure out just what you should do. These should be alternated, one per week.

First workout: 3-5x800-1600m@80-95%(5K/10K)in 3-5w/400-800m(2:1D)in3-5.

Here's how to decipher that.
1) Run repeats of 800 to 1600 meters
2) Run these at 80 to 95 percent effort, which should be between your 5K pace and your 10K pace.
3) In between these, do recovery runs of half the length of the hard sections.
4) Do the recovery runs in the same amount of time as the hard parts (so at half the pace).
5) Do 3 to 5 hard repeats, to total no more than 8% of your week's mileage.

Second workout:5-8x200-400m@85-100%(1.5K/5K)in 1/2-2w/400m in 3-5.
The pattern is explained as in the first workout, with some additional guidelines:
1) Run a total of 6-12 minutes hard.
2) Run at least 1500m hard
3) Run the hard sections to total no more than 5% of your week's mileage.

To this, I add one more guideline, Pfitzinger's Rule: run 80% of your week's mileage easy and 20% fast. Along with the guidelines for all the other days, this should tell you exactly what to run.

Most runners, of course, simplify this. The first workout becomes repeat miles and distance runners always try to make it miles at their race pace, which is a bit too slow and usually too many repeats. The second workout becomes repeat quarter miles at mile pace, which is ideal if you're racing under 5K in distance, but is too fast otherwise. Ideally, what you want to do in these workouts is to let your heart rate drop only 20-30% during the easy sections, so that you quickly go back to maximum during the hard sections; during the last recovery sections, your heart rate may not drop at all, or only slightly, so even the slow sections seem hard.
It gets a lot less complicated from here on. Trust me.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Quick Guide 5: Time Trials and Races

Most people can race 4-5% of their mileage as races in the long-term (think seasons or years) and 8-10% in the short-term. This means that you should run at least 10 miles for every mile you've raced before you race again. Jack Foster had a rule that you needed an easy day for every mile raced and his rule becomes my rule at 70 miles per week.

Every week that you don't race, you should do a time trial. A time trial is run like a race, but without competition and without tapering. I recommend alternating between two extremely short time trials: one of 45-75 seconds (almost always 400m on a track) and one of 2.5-3.5 minutes (commonly 1200m on a track).

The rationale for these short time trials is to get used to running anaerobically. If you're racing as hard as you can, the last 1-3 minutes of the race are going to be uncomfortable; you don't have enough oxygen to sustain what you're doing, so your body, feeling that it's suffocating, demands that you slow down or stop. Pushing through this barrier is what a finishing "kick" is all about. When you practice doing these runs, they become easier and you learn that you can tolerate more than you thought you could. This can lead to picking off runners at the end of races that are struggling because they haven't done this.

It's not fun, admittedly. But it's so short that you get over it quickly. It won't wear you out the next day like a longer race will.