The never-fails, FOOLPROOF method to running faster

You want to get better at running right, that’s why you’re here, reading this under that catchy headline?

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret, there are no shortcuts. However, there are simple changes you might be able to make that will produce results.

Still reading? Excellent, thank you! I’m sure I’ve lost a few already. You must be committed! I’m going to share with you the two things I consider most important in making steady improvements.

Becoming a better runner involves going out and running, a lot. You’ll see training plans all over the internet and in magazines. You might download and follow one, or adapt one to fit your own life. You might make one up yourself completely or have one set by a friend or a coach. One thing they’ll all have in common is that you go out the door and run.

But what kind of running? Easy? Threshold? Speedwork? Tempo? Recovery? Long Run?  And then there’s further questions such as how fast/slow? And how long?

And this brings me to my first point.

BALANCE

I’ve seen marathon plans that will have you running a 20 miler even though weekly mileage hits a maximum of 35 per week. I’ve seen lots of runners who ONLY run fast on all of their runs. And I see lots of injured runners who don’t take adequate rest.

The rules I recommend are as follows:

  • PACE – normal(easy) running, workouts, and recovery runs should all have a notably different feel to them.
  • Fast runs – these are your opportunities to run FAST, make the most of them
  • Long Runs – try and keep it below 30% of your overall weekly mileage, I personally like to keep it under 2 hours too.
  • Speedwork – keep this well below 10% of your overall weekly mileage

What do these rules mean? They should mean that you feel fresh enough to tackle your speedwork effectively, and that you are developing a strong aerobic engine without over-training.

If your speedwork or long run go over these amounts, they often demand more recovery time which may result in lost training days…..or worse…..injury.

A simplified example training week – play with the no’s but pay attention to the %’s
Total Mileage: 40 miles
Long Run: 10 miles = 25%
Speedwork: 3 miles = 7.5%  (eg 12 x 400m)
Tempo run: 5 miles – pace between HM to 10k pace.
Easy runs: 22 miles
Rest: At least one full day.

Getting the BALANCE right will mean you are more likely to achieve my second point without incurring injury or fatigue.

CONSISTENCY

 This bit’s easy on paper. Just go out and do it, week in/week out. But as we all know, life likes to throw obstacles in the way, so here are my tips on remaining consistent:

  • Make sure you’re enjoying running
  • Write a weekly plan (but be prepared to change it)
  • Get the balance right to avoid injury
  • Keep your runs/routes varied to keep it interesting
  • Increase volume or pace over a period of weeks, don’t make big jumps.
  • Find a partner or club to maintain motivation

Final Important point.

  • Listen to your body!

If it’s getting tired after a number of weeks, it might mean you need to pull back on something. Maybe cut the mileage, or trim your pace a little.

Your body will normally give you signs that its reaching breaking point (elevated resting heart-rate, poor sleep, lack of motivation, restlessness, halt in progress etc.) listen to them before it’s too late.

We walk a fine line between peak performance and overtraining, lets try and stay on the right side.

Rest and recovery is equally as important as running, its where your body adapts to the training you’re putting it through. This will demand a blog post all of its own but here’s 3 quick pointers:

  • Find yourself a good Sports Masseuse to help with mobility & maintenance once a month
  • Find yourself a running-friendly Yoga teacher who understands how to stretch you out without taking too much tension out of your muscles.
  • Get on top of your nutrition as this helps everything from rebuilding to refuelling

 

If you can keep up well balanced training consistently then results WILL follow.

 

 

Advertisements

The Long Run – Are we getting it wrong?

I wanted to post a few thoughts I’ve been having recently on Long Runs.

I’m not saying these are right, or indeed wrong. But they’ve been making more and more sense to me and I wanted to write them down so I don’t forget them. Also I hope I can get a few people’s thoughts on them, let me know if you think I’m onto something, or if I’m missing something completely.

In particular I’m addressing the Long Run which is usually a staple part of a Marathon training plan. Most plans will have you go up to 20 miles, or further, at least once. Its become a magic number, one that must be reached in training regardless of how many times you might run in a week, or your overall mileage.
I’ve been there myself, the 20 milers loom large on that plan stuck to the fridge. They fill you with dread at the start of the cycle, but they’re set in stone. You have to do them if you want to be able to run 26.2 on the day.

And actually, these thoughts apply if you’re not running a marathon too.

My experience with 20+ mile training runs is that they knock me for six. I run them at the right pace, I fuel them right, but they still bugger up my training for the week ahead. And that goes for 18 milers too.

In fact, I’ve found my limit where I can consistently maintain training week in/week out, and its 2 hours. I did a 2 hour Time Trial last week and at current fitness levels thats just over 16 miles for me. As soon as my sessions start going over this threshold, fatigue creeps in to the point where I have to start missing training.

Funnily enough, that coincides with what I’ve been reading in Hansons Marathon Method. The long run in their plans goes up to 16miles, but the whole plan is consistent high mileage. They do suggest taking the long run longer if your overall weekly mileage is up around 80+, but I would guess this correlates roughly with a 2 hour session anyway.

I wonder what the elites do? They’ll be planning to be out on the course for just over 2 hours so why would they want to run training sessions that go way over that, its just not specific to their goals. Its not beyond the realms that they might do a 20 mile run in 2 hours several times in preparation is it?

It strikes me that this golden figure has rolled down from the top performers, back in the 80’s running boom when there were loads of runners out there running 2:40 and quicker, and become a target for everyone.

Interestingly, without me mentioning any of these thoughts, a club-mate approached me with a research paper he’d read that said no positive adaptations occur in the Mitochondria after 2 hours. In fact, the muscles begin to break down at this point, actually causing damage, essentially causing more harm than good. (wish I had a link for this, it sounded really interesting)
He said that the biggest adaptations to the Mitochondria occur when running for shorter periods at higher intensity. For example 15mins at 5k pace will bring about more increased Mitochondria function than a 90 minute run. Of course, this doesn’t solve the issue of specificity if you’re training for a marathon.

The key points for me at the moment:

  • Long Run should equal 20-30% of weekly total
  • Long Run should not exceed 2 hours
  • Long Run should be a staple workout, regardless of distance training for
  • Long Run pace shouldn’t be set in stone: If it feels too fast for a given day, It probably is, dial it back a bit.

We’re all different and what works for me might not work for you, but one thing is certain, consistent, injury free running yields results. And this is my preferred approach at the moment.

In my own context, I’ve managed to maintain high mileage (50-70miles per week), and set a 5k PB within days of a 2hr TT so its working for me.

I haven’t yet gone into a marathon with this method, but I’m planning on it at some point and I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on.

Please remember, these are just my current thoughts on it, pick it apart if you like, tell me why I’m wrong (or tell me why I’m right!) – I’d appreciate any input.

 

Here’s a link to some further reading if you’re interested
http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0129.htm