What to Consider for a Training Plan...
Those new to running, or those who do not class them selves as 'real' runners and not forgetting the more experienced amongst you will often not realise that following a few straightforward guidelines with your run training that you can dramatically reduce the risk of injury occurrence. In doing so you can also dramatically increase your chance of fitness improvement and achieving new race distances or personnal best times.
Often, runners look for a quick fix to improve their running and in doing so they forget they are not machines, buit in fact they are human, and I have no idea why. We overload our bodies and it feels fine. So we keep on going and suddenly it is not so 'fine'. Illness, injury and the running blues are far too common as is the surprising fact that far too many ignore the warning signs untill it is way too late. The most common causes of running downtime that we see at the Accelerate Performance Centre are Over-use injuries caused by continual, sometimes even habitual over-training; plus poor strength leading to localised fatigue and injury and finally poor running technique and posture. Both poor strength and technique can also be attributed to over-training as the body starts to compensate for that which is not as it should be. Either way the outcome is pain with muscles and ligaments failing to work in the way they should.
The general classsification for the above stress related situations is simply, 'Over-Training'. So whether you are a complete beginner to running, someone with more experience or you are returning from injury, the guidelines remain the same.
Heart Rate monitors, if used properly are the best the guide to intensity and how your body is reacting to training-stress. If you body is fatigued or overly stressed from a harder session the message will be clear, as the numbers rarely lie. You have to slow down, end off! Yet, before the days of heart rate monitors and GPS watches we used to train to feel, and it worked. Our breathing rate and ability to talk was always a good indicator and it gave the opportunity for us to listen and understand the 'feel' of our running, so here's my guide to your training intensity and all you need is you!
Easy Recovery Runs: You should be able to easily and comfortably hold a conversation. Conversing in paragraphs or the ablity to sing a nursery rhymme should be pretty straightforward, especially at the end of your run. On days when you are tired you rate of respiration (the number of breathes you take) may increase in which case slow down.
Long Slow Distance (LSD) Runs: On these days, often a Sunday long run, you should still be able to converse easily. Compared to your recovery day you paragraphs are getting shorter to just a couple of longer sentences. Breathing is deep but still easy.
Tempo Runs or Steady Faster Runs: These are not runs you race. They are designed to leave you feeling fresh but as though you have run fairly hard and well. Something akin to the first few miles of a half marathon or perhaps a 10k if you are new to running. You will be breathless, talking will be harder and only be in short sentences. You will finish out of breathe, but at no time will the effort leave you wanting to finish the run early. Many runners enjoy these tempo runs as they feel like a good workout without trying you too much. These runs have a reputation for the 'Runners-High'.
Fast, pacey runs: Yes, shorter in duration and mimicking race day, all be it for less duration. Breathing is becoming much harder and speaking is getting difficult. You speak two or three words at the very most between breathes. You will finish this run very much out of breathe but not completly shattered.
Hard - Easy Method of Training.
This is one of the most underated, most often abused guidelines to run training. Give your body a chance to adapt and recover folks, so every longer (LSD), tempo or speedy session should always be followed the very next day by an easy recovery run. These should also be shorter in duration (20-30 minutes) and run as recovery runs. Following racing you may take a whole week to recover or longer for a marathon, so use the time wisely and recover well! I would always advocate running as opposed to complete rest and sore muscles can always be taken for a walk or a swim instead.
Running distance or duration should only ever be increased gradually. As a rule work in minutes for each run and for the whole week. The rule is very straightforward in that you should only 10% additional running duration to your runs, including the total for ther week. This rule has been around since forever and works well.
Recovery Weeks and Race Taper.
Yes always, especially when you are going through harder periods of training; distance or intensity. As a guideline every forth week of training, cut back on the intensity and your training time, by a good 25 to 35%. Take the time to get a massage, put you feet up a little more and how about a couple of good stretching sessions? Recover well and use this week as a springboard to the next three weeks of harder training or to race at the end of the week. Longer races will recquire more tapering and recovery. Don't forget to build in recover periods following racing.
Introduce Intensity (Speed and hills) and Long Distances Gradually.
We run our first harder, speedy, session. We feel great and we can't wait to repeat the session or run something similar. STOP... think about it. You are not a machine. Rest, recover then repeat. An ideal time to introduce intensity into your training is the week before you recovery train. Then ad it again in weeks two and three of the next block, always surrounding the harder days with recovery runs. And, "No, LSD runs do not count as recovery unless you are very experienced".
You will always be better off with shorter periods of intensity and build slowly allowing the body to adapt so allowing you to safely train harder and for longer. The same rules would apply to marathon runners introducing longer training runs into their training.
Training and Racing Goals
In putting all of this together it is important to have an idea of why you are training. Is it for competitive, fitness or health reasons? Are you trying to run faster or for longer? Is this your first race and it is about completion? You should also be thinking about what is good in your running and what needs improving. Reviewing your previous training and racing can take time, but it will be well spent.
So putting together a list of things you would like to work on is a good idea and looking at this alongside your race objectives is an even better one. The key is to be realistic. In training just look at improving one or two areas at most, ensuring these align to your race goals. It is no good continually practising tempo runs in a flat area if you intend to race a very hilly half marathon.
Also, when you look at your racing plan, do you have enough time time to train for your chosen event. If you over race you will require more recovery and therefore you will have less time to train to meet your objectives. Over racing will eventually catch you up and be your downfall. As such, our Racing Goals can be placed into three catergories:
Ultimate Goal: Wow, this would be brilliant. It's a real stretch and if everything went to plan then this is achievable.
Stretch Goal: Yes, you have to put the work in, but this goal is very likely
Happy Goal: Yes, this will do. Not the best you could have done but it is a step in the right direction.
Some people also add in a Fall Back Goal in case of illness or injury. Or you could just be flexible with the goals above and adjust accordingly. Additionally, training goals should be monitored with you keeping an eye on improvement levels so that you move the goal upwards as you become fitter.
Putting It All together...
Yes, think carefully about your available training time for each day of the week. You should allow for the work - family balance. Plot your available training time and then allocate the days which will be recovery and then those that will be for LSD and those that will be made available for some sort of increasing effort. Then look at which weeks are for racing, recovery and training development. Does this look achievable and allow for you current fitness and the training you are doing right now? Your starting point is not the available time that you have, it is the current level of training time that you are actively doing.
So all in all, with everything you do with your running, caution is the better part of valour, and ensuring adequte recovery time should never, ever, under any circumstance be underrated. If in doubt, simply, 'Recovery Train'. Intensity and new longer distance should be introduced gradually and following the 10% rule is a good way to go.
Remember all of the above is a guide and if you are nmot sure about something find the answer before you proceed or move forward cautiously. Always remember this is your fun time and should be enjoyable so don't put pressure on your self to do more than you are currently able.
As to technique and running strength, you may well be advised to seek the advice of a running professional or a knowledgeable coach at your running group or club. They can help immensley with improvement and keeping injuries at bay. Yes, the team at the Accelerate Performance Centre can help you here too.
Written by Stuart Hale. Stuart is one of the Endurance Coaches from the Accelerate Performance Centre. He is actively involved in coaching runners from complete begginners through to England Mountain Runners. His background is road running, although these days you will more likely find him of the trails of the Peak District. Twitter @RunStu Buzz-Blog Here >>
Friday 17th of October 2014