I wrote a piece entitled ‘How much training for the sub 35-minute 10 km?‘ in April. This is the follow-up.
Both blogs are a component of what is now 78-weeks of consecutive injury free training; that consistency, is the real answer to the question I pose in title of this blog.
The individual components of training have been discussed on this site previously. In today’s blog, I’m going to try to give you the key subtleties from 3 phases of training. These subtleties translate individual training sessions into a consistent run programme. If you want to catch up on the component parts, you can do it here:
- Why Strength and Conditioning is Good for Runners
- Why Yoga is Good for Runners
- Why Runners should Train like Sprinters
- Cross-Training for the Runner
The first thing to notice is that the average weekly mileage in this phase is only +3 from what it was 3-months earlier. I set myself a target of winning the months of December and January. Victory for me was getting on a plane to New Zealand in as good a shape as I had been when running 34:20 in November – no more, no less.
The way I would win the month of February was by allowing myself to develop the above phase while adapting to a new environment. Nothing flash required, just another consistent month. February was very much general running over rolling hills on the golf course. The Saturday session arrived in March.
The key subtlety from phase 1 centers around Thursday and the willingness to run as little as 2 x 400 m; adding a solitary 400 m each week. Eight weeks later and you’ve got 10 x 400 m at the end of a good mornings work. I hadn’t done a track workout for at least 5-years. Two 400’s was enough to have my calves singing for the afternoon. By adding one every week, confidence grows in your ability to run on a track. Running at 78-second pace feels easy and develops the confidence that one day, you’ll be able to hold 81-seconds for a 33-minute 45-second 10 km. Each week your neuromuscular system gets used to the rhythm and cadence. When proper track sessions come down the line – you’re prepared (and at a lower risk of injury).
The major take home message from phase 1, for anyone with similar goals, is: you have to be patient, disciplined and develop self-control. If necessary, you’ll need to be willing to add a single repetition each week or go through training phases with largely unchanged weekly mileage.
This is the phase where you earn your money. The training before means you’re able to train and train hard. I would go as far as to say that this phase was the key one. As we approach late July, in a season that will carry on into August, I feel this phase is allowing me dine out comfortably until the end of the season.
We’re only +9 weekly miles from the previous phase or +12-miles from 7-months prior. However, there is nearly 4.5 hours of non-run training in this phase. Furthermore, everything has tightened up. Four of the 5 working days involve training twice a day. Diet was good and routine (habit) was king. For the first 2 weeks (of 4) your legs are heavy and you’re a bit grumpy. The last 2 weeks, you’re nailing it.
Why not do this earlier? Aside from the obvious reasons, because rigorous self-control in all aspects is difficult to sustain for 78-weeks. In phase 1, I aimed for consistency and nothing flash. This also meant, that my diet was good without being exceptional, that I had a few beers in the sun but never got smashed. By operating at about 80% for a phase, I gave myself the head-space to operate at 100% for key phases prior to the season start.
The cross-trainer allows you to up the volume of aerobic work, whilst mimicking a running action, but not loading the connective tissue-like structures (the most commonly injured in runners). Why not just do 60-minutes instead of 2 x 30-minutes? This is purely to do with the psychology of habit. Other than Monday, I trained twice a day on a work day. I hit the hay at 9 pm and got up at 6 am, even if I didn’t need to. The formation of these habits sustains you later on when the going gets tough.
Saturday’s session, you’ll notice, spends very little time crossing the threshold of target race pace (5-minutes 24-seconds per mile). Gradually building the volume of intensity is key to building the reservoir of endurance that underpins my running now. Hard (too fast) sessions bring you up and over the hill very quickly, save it for a race.
This is probably the most enjoyable phase. After the previous phase, you’re capable of delivering some serious runs and sessions, whilst still feeling in control. The volume is a bit lower for a few reasons. 1) You’re a lean machine at this point and you don’t need as much of the junk work, 2) The sessions require concentration and head-space; so you quickly learn not to be a slave to volume or you pay for it in the session and 3) There is a good chance in this phase, you are racing the week after.
The habits you have formed in phase 2 are key here. You are bored of certain aspects of training, but you’ve honed the processes to such an extent, they’ve become a habit. You can go through the motions when you need to and focus on delivering the key work-outs (Tuesday and Friday).
This is also called the ‘I get by with a little help from my friends‘ phase. Steven Macklin told me to switch up my progression run to an alternating pace run (Tuesday). He also gave me track-session number one above (Friday). Confidence soars from this point, as race pace doesn’t feel too bad. Andy Hobdell gave me session number 2 (Friday) and a colleague from the University came to the track to hold a watch for my big set. In addition to their coaching expertise; what the lads were giving me was a) variety and b) a reduction in the amount of decision making I had to do – freeing me up to just stick to the process.
The last key subtlety from phase 3 is that you might have noticed my long run increased to 14-miles. This was druing a phase with an overall reduction in volume. What you tend to forget at this point is that although volume has gone down; consistency has continued to soar. So while adaptations to track work feel quite specific and measurable in terms of precise times and distance; general adaptation continues to happen. Subtle little changes such as; my heart rate on the long run was lower, the pace slightly faster and the feeling of fatigue in the last mile or so, less and less. Therefore, a gentle nudge up to 14-miles was of little consequence in terms of injury risk, rather another little indicator of the sort of progress that can only come from consistently doing the basics well.
I hope that might be of some help, tonnes more to come on this blog.
I won’t sign off with a promise of a blog on the sub 33-minute 10 km. Right now, I’m going to enjoy running in my first national championships (for 8-years) as part of the half-marathon team at my parent club Ferrybank AC. Next season can wait for now – there’s no point in climbing a mountain, unless you enjoy the view too.