Friday, September 11, 2015

The 5 Principles of Sustainable Training

So as I train and improve and get better results I start getting the questions about how I do it. Particularly from people who follow my Strava and struggle to understand how I can race at 5 minute miles when if a run of mine dips under 7mm it's a serious cause of celebration.

Now this isn't to say that this is the only way to train. To the dismay of felines and PETA members everywhere I'm a firm believer that there are many ways to skin a cat. What I do know is that this seems to work for me and from what I've seen works for a lot of other people as well.

Principle 1 - Mileage makes champions

Time and again the biggest improvement I see is with athletes who have never consistently run anything like serious mileage increasing their mileage and suddenly running all of the times that their interval sessions might suggest were possible.

Athletes rarely believe it will happen until they try it. 40 minute 10k runners become 35 minute men in the space of a year.

The increase of mileage from say 30 miles per week up to a 60-80 regular miles is totally transformative (far more than the addition of any interval session).

If you run more miles, by and large, you will improve.

Principle 2 - The hare doesn't always beat the tortoise

When increasing mileage (and just generally) - SLOW IT DOWN.

Look at all of the physiological markers - aerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, vo2 max - what do they have in common? They are all far faster than serious runners train on a daily basis.

There are very few runners at a good level who are able to train at marathon pace each day. It just doesn't happen. When you're not triggering those physiological changes through hitting the aerobic threshold is there any point to training as close as possible to marathon pace?

Not to my mind. Running in that "gray zone" is a killer that many British athletes fall afoul of. Too fast to recover and not fast enough to trigger the adaptations needed.

Let your body guide you on easy runs.

Principle 3 - Double down

In contrast to the Wetmore school of big singles I much prefer to split my runs into two per day as much as possible with maybe a long weekend run.

I find this allows you to build mileage much quicker and get you into a "normal" training routine where running twice a day is standard significantly quicker. Even if that second run is a walk.

By splitting the runs you also allow more focus on the individual runs - whether that is one as a steady run or a mini session and the other as an absolute jog - rather than a single "middling" run.

Double down to win the jackpot.

Principle 4 - Commute

Most people won't, on the whole, manage to keep getting up early to run and going out to run once home from the office. The only feasible way for the everyday athlete to keep up this sort of training intensity without a substantial degradation in social and family life is to build it into your daily routine.

Running your commute (or at least part of it) gets you into a clear daily rhythm. Your colleagues will rapidly get used to the sight of you both arriving and leaving in short shorts and with all the running you're doing you will have absolutely fantastic pins.

Get yourself a good back-pack, work out just how light you can travel (blokes can easily leave their whole work wardrobe in the office) and build it into your daily routine.

Running should become a way of life.

Principle 5 - Train to race

It can be very easy to get caught up in this training. Running lots of miles is totally addictive. The miles themselves can become the goal rather than the racing perfomances. Often athletes can become scared of racing - they've just been running slowly - how on earth can they race a good 2 mile or 5k!

In the same way that the under-trained athlete can run a brilliant set of km reps and think "well I'm definitely good for X" because of the training session, the mileage athlete can think "there's no way I can run X because I haven't done a session that fast".

The best way to do that is through regular and frequent racing. There's nowhere to hide and you'll see in brutal honesty exactly where you are.

The nice side is, that racing will bring you on. Unless you're also doing a lot of volume at a high intensity (e.g. a regular 8 x km session) - then the very act of racing will condition you to race much better the next time.

Regular strides (at say, 1500m race pace) in as many of your runs as possible will make sure your legs are capable of turning over at the correct pace. After you've done that then VO2 max and lactate threshold will have been improved by your mileage depending on just how much you jumped.

Yes - for the elite athlete these become more key but they are, as ever, the icing on the cake. Not the cake itself.

If you are regularly racing you will have fun, see where you are in your training and maybe even surprise yourself a bit. Even with heavy legs I would expect most to still run PBs off the above sort of increase in mileage and once you start to stagnate over a couple of months then look at changing things up.

Please note that this applies to shorter races! A hard HM each week will just wear you down...

Don't lose sight of the fact this is about racing.

Disagree? Post below.


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Bryn Running

Training diary and musings on running in general.