Category Archives: Training

Redefine Your Easy: Not Just Slow Running

The body is inherently lazy. It is clever in finding ways to have you take the easy way out. When training towards big goals we need to get past this. Check your base point of training and redefine your easy.

Defining Easy

Easy is a relevant concept. I’ve written about the power of easy runs before. Those concepts still hold true. There are different ways to make runs easy. Easy may be faster than we think.

Most easy runs will occur while recovering from a harder run. Either a long run or a set of intervals. So it would be normal to expect to feel sore or heavy in the legs. Perceived exertion may be significantly higher than the intensity truly is.

After running for many years it pays to check your habits every so often. I had fallen into the habit of making my easy runs so easy they almost no longer resembled running. Instead they had become better described as a shuffle. Too far removed from the technique I was aiming for.

Is this really a problem?

It is when it pulls you away from an efficient running technique.

This leads to a challenge.

After running for many years it pays to check your habits every so often. I had fallen into the habit of making my easy runs so easy they almost no longer resembled running. Instead they had become better described as a shuffle. Too far removed from the technique I was aiming for.

How do you keep the run easy while raising the intensity to ensure better technique?

The answer is to remember intensity isn’t the only variable to determine the difficulty of a run. Keeping an easy run relatively short can allow you to up the intensity a little bit more.

My Approach

Most of my easy runs were between 8-15km. In these I kept the intensity very low. While the movement at a low intensity aided I the recovery from harder runs, it was taking away from my technique.

Now I focus on technique during my easy runs. Ensuring proper knee lift, good leg extension and push off all the way through the toes. This raises the heart and breathing rates more. I am accepting this as long as I’m not reaching my anaerobic threshold and accumulating lactic acid. To keep the run still within the easy range I am dropping the distance down to between 5-10km. The shorter distance stops the run from taking away from the next of training.

The Results

The faster running and more complete technique is a little more difficult. They highlight where I am sore from previous hard training. Here the body and brain attempt to kick in the lazy habits. More concentration is now needed to override the inherent laziness.

On the plus side I am finding I feel fresher going into the harder runs. Faster running is feeling a bit more natural and dare I say it… easier.

How do you approach your easy runs?

Let me know


Best Way To Start A Running Program

Welcome to a new year. New goals. New running program. Over the last couple of decades I’ve tried different approaches to kick starting my next training. In this post I share what I find to be my best way to start a running program.

The approach isn’t about exact mileage, paces or mix of training of sessions. Those all vary depending on upcoming goals and current fitness and health. Instead I look for an approach that sets me up hit my training consistently and hard. To get me beyond the initial burst of motivation.

Two principles make up this approach:

  1. Refresh the mind
  2. Prepare the body
Welcome to a new year. New goals. New running program. Over the last couple of decades I’ve tried different approaches to kick starting my next training. In this post I share what I find to be my best way to start a running program.

Refresh The Mind

This is not taking a break. Instead I am chasing the enjoyment. Looking to lose myself in the process of running rather than focussing on times. It is a form of moving meditation.

There are 2 aspects to refreshing my mind.

All runs are based on feel. Some structure still exists in the form of intervals or repeats. On those runs I don’t worry about any exact times. Instead I run based on feel, looking to achieve the feeling rather than any number. The times are only a by product. If they turn out faster or slower than expected then it’s irrelevant.

If I feel like changing the planned run then I will. It really doesn’t matter as long as I’m still training and enjoying it. Every so often this approach results in some runs much faster than they feel.

Supporting the more relaxed approach I aim to run in places I enjoy. This is almost always on the best trails around me. This year I did this by making the most of the spectacular trails and beach around Anglesea.

Prepare The Body

This is mixture between hard training and allowing recovery. A wide variety of running paces, terrain and intensity is important.

I will train hard and fast in between different versions of easy. I’ll state again I don’t care about exact paces, but am looking to have the running feel great.

One aspect of training I avoid during this process are hard, long runs that grind me down and require a few days to recover from. Those types of runs tend to be counterproductive. They rob me of the snap and spring I look for. Any over load usually comes from pushing the speed up.

I’ll expect to be a bit sore from some training for a day or 2, but shouldn’t require anything beyond that. There is room to throw in a race, but nothing beyond 12km.

Most mornings I woke just before the sun. Running through the amazing backdrop of the sunrise across the sea and beach. The loose training structure went like this:

How I Started My Year Running

Camping with family and friends put me amongst some of the best landscapes along the coast. A mixture of hills, single track, bush and beaches made for the perfect playground.

Living in a tent without setting an alarm allowed my body to follow it’s natural circadian rhythm. This is a luxury to me. Life as a shift worker makes this a rare opportunity.

Most mornings I woke just before the sun. Running through the amazing backdrop of the sunrise across the sea and beach. The loose training structure went like this:

  • VO2 Intervals 4x3min with 3min easy jog
  • Easy 10km
  • Easy 7km
  • Race: Tim Gates Classic 10km
  • Regeneration 4km
  • Easy 6km
  • Easy 10km
  • Hill Repeats 4x3min with jog back down
  • Easy 10km
  • Easy 6km

In writing it looks like a typical running program. The distances, paces and even the structure of each run isn’t very important. It is the approach that makes the difference.

I find the best way to start a running program is to take a bit of time to refresh the mind and prepare the body. How do you like to start a new running program?

Christmas Training Block: Running In The Silly Season

Struggling to train during the silly season? I find it harder. A mixture of increased demands on time, renovations, social stuff, kids not at school and all the miscellaneous extras Christmas brings makes it harder to fit it in running. Here’s my plans for the Christmas training block.

 

The Christmas training block takes me over 4 weeks from a week before Christmas through to the end of the second week of January. It is a time for friends, family, food, drink, mess, cleaning, packing, camping, holidays, food, drink, friends and family.

 

How does running fit?

Running is used to enhance my life. It helps make what is great even better. It helps me deal better with the not so great parts too. Running makes it easier to relax. I feel better generally and it is easier to be present in all moments when I get in regular running.

 

On the flip side I have the tendency to go too far. Running can be a great escape. But I have taken it too far in the past. I still chase big goals in running. Finding the balance between all aspects is often a challenge.

 

To make sure I get my running done I need to focus on my non-running commitments. It sounds counterintuitive. Procrastinating on the other areas in life means they will take more time. Which means they encroach on the running.

 

There’s no such thing as multitasking only task-switching. For me the most efficient way to get something done is to focus only on that. I’ll use this as good practice to improve my mindfulness skills.

 

Working hard on the necessities will give me more freedom for the fun stuff. Family, friends and running. I’ll block time to getting the tasks completed. This will create both the physical and mental freedom to start the following day with a training session.

 

Timeframes on the runs will be tight. Most runs will be an hour or less. The key sessions maybe a little longer plus a weekly long run of up to about 2 hours. Compared to the last few years these timeframes are short. Yet I know I will get more out of them.

 

Get More Out Of A Run

Being intentional is becoming a cliche, but it applies here. Knowing what I want to get out of a run and what it takes to achieve that is of paramount importance. By defining these two elements simplifies the run. It doesn’t make it easy.

 

All that is left is to go out and do what I need to achieve the run goal.

 

Boundaries To Stay Accountable

This creates boundaries that help keep the mind on track. No room to wander. No space to slack off for some extra recovery between repeats. No chance you get back those moments of dropping the pace.

 

Challenging is the fact the planned paces are faster than I typically have run over the last couple of years. The last 4 weeks have proven I can run those paces. Now I need to push them out and hold them for longer, more often and consistently. That is the hard part.

 

Running 7 Days A Week

Switching to a 7 day week for this training cycle has me feel somewhat like a normal person. Of course I’ll never quite get there. 

The base plan for a training week will be:

 

  • VO2 Intervals 4-5 x 3min with 3min recovery
  • Regeneration / Easy 40-60min
  • Long Run 20-23km
  • Regeneration / Easy 40-60min
  • Easy Run 40-60min
  • Anaerobic Threshold Intervals 4 x 2-3km with 5min recovery
  • Regeneration 30-50min

 

Total kilometres I don’t care about. They are only a byproduct of getting in the required work.

 

Skipping the occasional regeneration is definitely not a problem if it’s for a good reason. Christmas Day will be a good reason. That day is for the kids.

Struggling to train during the silly season? I find it harder. A mixture of increased demands on time, renovations, social stuff, kids not at school and all the miscellaneous extras Christmas brings makes it harder to fit it in running. Here's my plans for the Christmas training block.  The Christmas training block takes me over 4 weeks from a week before Christmas through to the end of the second week of January. It is a time for friends, family, food, drink, mess, cleaning, packing, camping, holidays, food, drink, friends and family.

VO2 Intervals

VO2 intervals are one of the best ways to improve distance running. If you want to get faster then max out your oxygen use.

VO2 intervals are the most important fast session in my running plan. This is a run not to skip.

As with all running there a multiple ways to reach the same goal. This is the approach I am taking and what tends to work well for many.

Intensity

The intensity you want to work at is close to your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max). Aiming for 95-100% of VO2max. But it is ridiculously hard and expensive to measure your VO2 while out running. We need another way.

Heart rate can help. Typically hitting between 90-100% of maximal heart rate (HRmax) gets you in the right area. But not always. Heart rate can plateau while your intensity rises and you may be working harder than required. Also your HR may not rise to the desired range at the start of the session.

Using pace can be a little more accurate. You will be aiming for between 5000m to 3000m race pace. The slower you race times the more you would lean towards 3000m pace. Another way to think is we can only hold our VO2max speed for between 9-14 minutes. That is the pace and intensity of the intervals.

Duration

The interval length should be between 2-6 minutes. Most studies have shown between 3-5 minutes giving the greatest results.

Recovery

Recovery is designed so you can perform your next interval. We want to avoid early fatigue.

Many sources will give a ratio for recovery such as 2:1 or 1:1, which appears to work in the research. My preferred approach is to take between 3-5 minutes between intervals. Shorter than 3 minutes tends to drop the standard in the last couple of intervals. Beyond 5 minutes seems to reduce the overall effectiveness of the session.

Keep the intensity at a comfortable run. Below anaerobic threshold. At your usual easy run pace. Walking and slow jogging will work, but I find if you can keep the speed up a little bit it helps reset your comfortable to a higher level.

How Many?

For the greatest improvements it appears we need between 12-30 minutes of intervals. Exactly how much may be dependant on your current fitness. If you don’t have the ability to maintain the intensity beyond 15 minutes, then there is no point forcing it out to 30 minutes.

If already to some degree of running around VO2max, then start with 4 x 3min intervals. From there you can gradually add time. For example:

  • 4 x 3min (12min)
  • 5 x 3min (15min)
  • 3 x 5min (15min)
  • 4 x 4min (16min)
  • 6 x 3min (18min)

For those who haven’t got a strong running base, have had some time off or haven’t included running at these pace a more conservative start might be better. Starting with 4 x 2min or even less and building up from there would help ensure the connective tissue and muscles are better able to handle VO2 intervals.

VO2 Interval Session

Ideally you won’t be feeling stuffed from previous training. A day or two of comfortable running would be best leading up. Make sure you are hydrated and fuelled lightly. These are not the types of runs to testing out any depletion strategy.

Warm Up

Warm up well. Treat it is an opportunity to fine tune your warm up for races. I like to run easy and relaxed for 10-15min until my body feels ready. Then I’ll either gradually increase the speed, or throw in a few relaxed run-throughs at speed. Nothing is forced, but I am looking feel the natural snap and spring from running faster. Total warm up time is usually 20-25min.

Main Set

Straight into the first interval. The paradox of trying to feel relaxed while pushing up the speed. Aiming to get the pacing spot on at the start. Making small adjustments as to be as exact as possible. Ideally you can hold the same pace from the start through to the end of interval. Then keep up that pace for each interval.

At the end of the interval relax into the recovery. Resist the urge just to stop or walk. Make the most of the momentum and keep the legs moving. Relax with each breath and reset the mind ready for the next interval.

Focus on the key elements of your running stride. Push through the ground. Keep the snap and lightness in each step. Stay away from muscling through. Beware the laziness of the body. It looks for the easy way out in the short term. Keep your technique, speed and power. Teach your body to maintain the efficiency of speed.

Cool Down

Once all the intervals are completed ease into a relaxed jog for the cool down. I like to start super easy and gradually build the pace back up over a few minutes to a run that feels moderate. Then hold that for a further 10 or so minutes before easing back down over a further 5-10 minutes seems to have me feel fresher over the next day than if I just jog easy or do a really short cool down. I have no science to support this. Just years of trying different methods.

VO2 Intervals

  • Warm up 10-15min easy running then 5-10min faster running
  • 4-8 x 2-6 minutes at 95-100% VO2max / 90-100% HRmax / 5000m-3000m race pace
  • Recovery between each interval 2-4 minutes easy run
  • Cool down for 10-20min

New Running Plan

Over the last four weeks I have experimented with my run training. I haven’t followed a normal training program. Instead I’ve tested how I respond to different types of run sessions. This has led to a new running plan.

 

Why Have I Experimented?

 

I have a goal to regain my running form from younger days. Looking to challenge my marathon personal best.

At 40 years old I cannot do the same training that got me there. The training I have been doing over the last couple of years won’t get me there either. Changes need to be made.

So I took some time to test the effect of different runs.

 

 

Key Lessons?

 

The higher volume, slower running that has been a mainstay of ultra marathon training has changed my over running style. Muscle imbalances have built up over time and my body is less able to handle fast running.

 

Anaerobic threshold runs raise my fitness quickly, but the down side is strong. My sleep quality gets effected. Three days later I tend to feel extra flat and struggle to run any quality for a couple of days

 

Fast running broken into intervals is improving all my running at all speeds. The greatest effect is when I keep the volume at a level that doesn’t bury me in the session. Where I feel like I can do at least one more repeat.

 

The Result

 

Less volume and more speed supplemented with strength training.

 

Running Plan

 

9 day training cycle:

  1. Short and Easy run (30min)
  2. Steady Run 45-60min
  3. VO2 Intervals 400m-1200m with 3min recovery (total 2-6km of intervals)
  4. Easy Run 45-60min
  5. day off (sleep after night shift)
  6. Long Intervals 2-4km at Marathon to Half Marathon pace with 5-2min recovery
  7. Easy Run 45-60min
  8. Long Run of 2 hours (slower than marathon pace, but far from a slow jog)
  9. Easy to Steady Run depending on how I feel.

 

Mixed amongst this week will be strength training. Two dedicated session out of each 9 days focussing on legs and core. Upper body will be mixed amongst life, without a set session. For me this allows me to get more work in than if I try to set more specific times.

 

How To Run

 

Quality is the priority. Hitting the targeted paces in the right way is more important than getting in another repetition or running an extra kilometre. To a point the aim is to get the speeds right then follow up with volume as my body adapts. Both volume and pace will adapt over time. They play off each other. As a result I will review the program every 4 weeks.

This training program is backed by the concepts I have covered in following posts:

 

Let me know what you think or if you have questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Base Training For Runners

Base training for runners is more than lots of easy kilometres. Focus goes a long way. We need a good working definition of base training.

Definition

The point of base training is to develop a well balanced athlete capable of optimally responding to the stress of competition specific training.

Manage The Load

Care needs to be taken not to provide too great a stress. Too much intensity or high load can lead to:

  • increased injury risk
  • reduced immune response
  • early peak in fitness

No one wants to be injured or sick. An early peak in fitness can be costly for race day. Usually an early peak doesn’t reach the same heights as one you build up to properly. There is usually a performance slump following a peak performance.

Easy Miles

Lots of easy miles is the most common approach to base training for running. If that is all a runner does in base training it neglects other important requirements needed to develop a well balanced athlete.

A balanced athlete is better able to handle the specific harder competition training.

Low intensity training does not develop:

  • the different fast-twitch muscle fibres
  • specific neuromuscular recruitment patterns for fast running
  • connective tissues ability to handle high loads of fast running

Low intensity is important as it does develop

  • ability to tolerate higher training volumes
  • increased capillary and mitochondrial density in muscle
  • ability to recover from harder training

Most of your running in base training should be easy. It does provide most of what we want from base training. It doesn’t give us everything.

Include More

The solution is to include all fitness requirements throughout base training. Include some fast high intensity running, mix in strength training and some form of plyometric training. Enhance static and dynamic flexibility. Develop all aspects that contribute to aerobic performance including pure endurance, speed and tolerance at around anaerobic threshold and ability to handle VO2max paces.

The trick is to be careful with the loading of both individual session and a full week’s impact. A good rule of thumb is a session shouldn’t take more than one day to fully recover from. You should feel capable of repeating the session 2 days later. Keep the volume on high intensity training relatively low. A little bit goes a long way.

This doesn’t mean all runs and training will feel easy. Expect to be hurting during some training. You should still be extending yourself. Remember the key to base training is while you are pushing out your boundaries, you are shouldn’t be exceeding them by too much. We are aiming to push up our fitness set point to a new level.

We still need a good dose of easy running. This provides many of the benefits we are chasing while allowing us to recover quicker. Easy running should be the majority of training. It is the mainstay of base training. We need to leave room for some other training.

How do you fit together your base training for running?

Base training for runners is more than lots of easy kilometres. Focus goes a long way. We need a good working definition of base training. Definition The point of base training is to develop a well balanced athlete capable of optimally responding to the stress of competition specific training. Manage The Load Care needs to be taken not to provide too great a stress. Too much intensity or high load can lead to: increased injury risk reduced immune response early peak in fitness No one wants to be injured or sick. An early peak in fitness can be costly for race day. Usually an early peak doesn’t reach the same heights as one you build up to properly. Plus there is usually a performance slump following a peak performance.

Basic Strength Training For Running

Including strength training in your running program will improve your running. How much improvement depends on what you do and how you do it. In this post I work through the basic strength training for running I currently do.

There is so much information available on strength training. Unfortunately most of it is low quality.

Good quality research on strength training for running is limited. There is still some out there.

Requirements of my strength training:

  • Time efficient
  • Increase fitness for life and work
  • Improve running

 

Time Efficient

 

One thing that gets in the way of strength training is if it encroaches on other aspects. The structure of the plan has to fit in well with my life, plus give me a good rate of return. Good news is you don’t need a huge time commitment to get the gains you are after.

 

 

 

Increase Fitness For Life And Work

 

I love my life and I want to get the most out of it. To achieve this it helps to be fit and capable of doing the things I want and need to. Back pain, injuries and fatigue at work and life are thing I don’t want to have to endure. Therefore the training plan needs to assist with this.

 

My job provides a mixture of sitting, manual handling and the occasional moment of high demand physical efforts. There are different injury risks in each category. Having a functional and strong body mitigates some of that risk.

 

It’s important to have the energy to participate fully in the rest of family and life. Approach training as a means to enhance life.

 

 

Improve Running

 

This is why we’re here. Enough said. Let’s get into the details.

 

Basic Strength Training For Running Plan

 

Keep it simple.

Basic Strength Training For Running•Time efficient

One main, full body workout every 3rd or 4th day. For those living more normal hours than me, that means 2 main workouts every week. These workouts ideally will be after a harder run. Either straight away, or later in the day. It is best not to do them the day before a key run. The carry over fatigue tends to reduce the quality of the run.

 

In between the main workouts, short 10-15 minute core training sessions are performed. Ideally it would be best to include one on every day without a main workout, but I will accept a minimum of 1 core training session between every main workout.

 

 

 

Main Full Body Workout

 

The exercise list

  1. Standing Single Leg Calf Raise 6-15 reps
  2. Seated Calf Raise 6-15 reps
  3. Single Leg Hamstring Raise 6-15 reps
  4. Lunge 4-10 reps
  5. Squat 4-10 reps
  6. Pull Up 4-10 reps
  7. Shoulder Press 4-10 reps
  8. Ab Wheel Rollout 6-15 reps
  9. Back Extension 6-15 reps

 

First week starts with 2 sets of each exercise. Second week 3 sets. Third week 4 sets of each exercise and this is maintained from then on.

 

Rest between each set will be approximately 2 minutes. Give or take 30 seconds either way. For the single leg exercises, I consider one side rested while working the other side.

 

The time commitment for a session is 30 minutes when it’s at 2 sets and extending up to 50-60 minutes at 4 sets per exercise.

 

 

Core Training

 

For the 10-15 minute core training sessions there is less structure. Instead the aim is steadily work almost continuously for 10-15 minutes. That time is filled moving through a series of core stability and strengthening exercises.

 

Most work will involve a swiss ball and focus on rotation and anti-rotation exercises. Basically this means keeping the core in a neutral position while moving a load around in different positions. This concept is best demonstrated in video over words. Lebron James shows off this concept to a high level in the article LeBron’s Secret To Being Better Than Ever In Season 15? Superhuman Core Strength.

 

Intensity

 

Intensity and form are important. Poor form leads to injury risk. Therefore the load must be within a range to it keep it together. However, the load must also be hard enough to get results.

 

Science suggests we get more benefits in improved connective tissue strength, limb stiffness and muscle power from higher loads performed for 2-4 sets of 4-15 repetitions compared to circuit style training or lower loads performed for more repetitions.

 

Exercise Selection

 

This is individual. Injury history, current imbalances, strength profile and equipment available all influence which exercises you choose. Different exercises can achieve the same goal. So I’ll go through the overriding principles of my selection.

 

Calves are targeted with 2 exercises. These have become a relative weak point for me over the last couple of years. Weakening of the calf muscles as we age has been shown to be a major cause of reduced stride length. Leading to the shuffling running pattern I am trying to avoid. I aim to turn that around.

 

The hamstrings play an increasing role as the speed of running increases. I want to run faster. Therefore I will strengthen the hamstrings.

 

Squats are included as a big lift. Dead lifts could be used in their place. There are potential benefits from squats and dead lifts beyond the direct strength gains. Research has shown there is a greater hormone response elicited compared to machine or exercises using lighter loads. Does this lead to further other improvements? Maybe. The science is far from conclusive. Including squats in my strength work usually has me feeling stronger overall.

Remaining exercises are chosen to cover the major movement patterns of the upper body, push, pull, extension and flexion. Rotation is covered is covered in the core training on days without the main full body workout.

 

Your Turn

 

What strength training do you include?

Would you like to know more about anything in this article?

Let me know in the comments below.

My Biggest Race Weakness: How To Fix Your Race Pacing

Pull apart my biggest race weakness. You learn a lot from mistakes. Learn from mine. Learn from my mistakes and fix your race pacing.

 

Pacing

 

Over the years I’ve prided myself on my pacing skills. I can run an out and back course and hit my return split within seconds. On a track I can become a human metronome. I’ve paced some races perfectly. As a result I developed the belief I was pretty good at race pacing.

 

Funny thing is I also have many races where I seriously got it wrong.

 

In many race I’ve gone out way too hard. Not just a little bit. So fast those watching say “he’s gone out way too hard.”

 

In those races I suffered spectacularly. From a massive slow down to a DNF. These are not the way I want to race. My goals are bigger. I’m sure yours are too.

 

 

When It Goes Wrong?

 

The problem in an ultra marathon is the correct pace is so slow. Running way too fast actually feels way too easy. Race pace is slower than your usual slower training run.

 

When working out predicted times and going through the maths, I have often thought:
How is it possible to run so slow?

 

The revenge on me is I end up unable to reach that slow pace later in the race.

 

Too fast feel very natural and too easy.

 

When It Goes Right?

 

Sometimes I get my pacing absolutely spot on. What was different? Why did I get it right?

 

Going through training history reveals one consistent factor for nailing race pace. I practiced race pace in training, a lot.

 

Repeating the speed over and over in training until it feels natural. Until it becomes the pace you naturally start with. Repeating until you can do it without thinking.

 

Along with the other elements of training, honing in on your race pace will set up the start of your race. One word covers this:

 

Repeition.

 

Why Is It Hard?

 

When we look at the speeds required to perform well at an ultra marathon they are actually slow. You might be able to rock out a 6:00/km long run of 30km in training and feel pretty good. Yet holding 7:30/km over 100 miles becomes impossible. Funny because running at 7:30/km at the start feels way too easy.

 

It usually feels easier to run faster.

 

Then the muscle damage accumulates. Your legs stiffen up. You lose some of the elasticity in your legs as the kilometres mount up. 7:30/km no longer feels easy. Your heart and lungs might be working at the same rate, but the legs don’t give the same return.

 

We can change this. Keep reading and I’ll take you through my approach.

 

 

 

 

Training To Fix Your Race Pacing A double approach is needed. Make race pace natural Condition your legs to hold race pacing

Training To Fix Your Race Pacing

 

 

A double approach is needed.

  1. Make race pace natural
  2. Condition your legs to hold race pacing

1. Make Race Pacing Natural

 

Start your training runs with your goal race pace. This has you running at the correct speed when you are feeling fresh. If you do this most days, your body gets used to it. After a few weeks it become natural.

 

Dedicate at least one run each week to honing on race pace. Find similar terrain. Hills, flat, trails, whatever you will encounter on race day. Go over it at the exact speed you should be running from race start. Then do it again the next week.

 

You know have it right when you no longer need to look at your watch or heart rate. When you can run at exactly the right speed without relying on other props. Once you no longer accidentally speed up or slow down. When your body hits the correct pace on autopilot.

 

2. Condition Your Legs To Hold Race Pacing

 

Once you have your race pacing honed in you need to hold it for a long time. Most of your training is already dedicated to this. Your long runs especially. Endurance becomes a byproduct  of ultra marathon training. We can get more exact. You can get more out of yourself.

 

There are 3 styles of training I have used to get this right:

  1. Down hill running
  2. Long run at race pace
  3. Progressive run

 

Down Hill Running

 

Is usually performed on a steep hill where I walk/hike up and run quickly, but lightly down. I repeat this over until I accumulate 60-90 minutes of up and down. The impact from the down hill running fatigues the legs in a certain way. Adapting to this improves the legs ability to tolerate for longer the impact of ultra marathon racing. The legs don’t become as stiff and take longer to lose their elasticity.

 

Long Runs

 

Long runs at race pace are exactly that. Go out and aim to hit your exact race paces on one of your regular long runs. Make it a full dress rehearsal. Same food, same gear and terrain. See how your body responds. You’ll not only get a specific training boost from this, you will also gain some insight into how you respond as the distance mounts up.

 

Progressive Runs

 

Progressive runs for race pace are not super long. I like to do them in 5 stages.

  1. Stage 1: 30 seconds / km slower than race pace
  2. Stage 2: 15 seconds / km slower than race pace
  3. Stage 3: Exactly race pace
  4. Stage 4 15 seconds /km faster than race pace
  5. Stage 5 30 seconds / km faster than race pace

Try to make each stage a lap of course you can repeat for each stage. Stick as close as possible to the pacing guidelines. You’ll learn to feel the subtle difference between a few seconds per kilometre. It will help you become more in tune with your body and how it reacts to small variations in pace. Making it easier to recognise those changes on race day.

 

Your Turn

 

How do you get your race pacing right?

Is it something you always struggle with?

Injury Proof Your Running In 6 Steps

Get more out of your running by staying injury free. Keep those improvements coming by avoiding time out of training. I’ve had very few injuries in over 20 years of running. I credit a deliberate effort to avoid injury as the main contributor. Hopefully my approach can you injury proof your running.

 

Everybody is different. Training history, injury history, body types, work stresses and variation over time. As a result we must take a dynamic approach to injury proof your running.

 

1. Dedicate time to becoming injury proof
2. Take notice of early warning signs
3. Progress training only as the body allows
4. Gently push up your fitness over time
5. Every now and then really push the boundaries when in good physical condition
6. Prioritise sleep

 

 

1. Dedicate time to becoming injury proof

 

Injury prevention is like anything else. To improve you need to dedicate some time to it.

 

Most of us are time poor. Injury prevention shouldn’t be about adding hours onto the training you are already struggling to fit in. Instead keep it manageable and regular. Make it easy to become a habit.

 

My approach is to schedule 2 x 15 minute sessions every week. Those 15 minutes could the start of a run. Incorporated as a warm up. They could be part of your strength training sessions.

 

Focus on whatever work will address your injury risk. This is individual. It might specific strengthening, technique retraining, flexibility work or a combination of the above.

 

 

2. Take Notice of early warning signs

 

We’ve all been guilty of ignoring the early signs of injury. The majority of injuries in running build up over time. Even those that appear to acute from an individual run usually are the final straw of an issue that already existed.

 

It is easier and takes less time to get over an injury the earlier you start dealing with it.

 

Truly listen to your body. Some pain and discomfort is normal at times from training, but there are different types of pain. Take note of tightness, sharp pains, pain that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time. Don’t take the chance to train hard through issues. Take the steps neccessary to deal with it now.

 

Early steps might be an extra easy day, to work on flexibility or some drills to correct technique. Ignoring the warning signs, might mean extended time off running or not being able to race at your goal race.

 

 

3. Progress training only as the body allows

 

This is an extension of point 2 in taking notice of the early warning signs of injury. If you have signs indicating injury or the inability to adapt to the current load, then you shouldn’t be pushing up your training.

 

Your body is amazing. It can adapt to almost anything if given time and the right stimulus. Push too hard too soon and it breaks.

 

Get your body in an inury free state. Allow the time it takes to heal. This doesn’t mean you can’t train, but progressing the training load before your body is ready will break it.

 

1. Dedicate time to becoming injury proof 2. Take notice of early warning signs 3. Progress training only as the body allows 4. Gently push up your fitness over time 5. Every now and then really push push the boundaries when in good physical condition 6. Prioritise sleep

 

 

4. Gently push up your fitness over time

 

The majority of training should gently push up your fitness over time. This process does take longer when measured in weeks. Measured over months to years you can reach higher heights.

 

Small increases each or every second week require patience in the early stages. But the accumulated effect puts helps build a very efficient and robust body. In this approach fitness gains comes naturally.

 

Runners often feel they have to run further or faster each week to get any benefit. Luckily this isn’t true. The body still adapts to a training run over the same distance at the same pace if repeated once or twice. For example, take a 10km run at 5:00/km pace. The first week it might feel a little difficult. Second time round it feels comfortable. Definitely some improvement in fitness. On the third time it feels the same, but inside the body you reinforced the neuromuscular pathways and added to effiency. Beyond this it is worth increasing the pace or distance.

 

Taking your time to gently push up your fitness will allow you safely absorb bigger training loads.

 

 

5. Every now and then really push push the boundaries when in good physical condition

 

This is what I consider the fun part. This is when we see big jumps in fitness.

 

It also comes with a risk. This training is taxing and will find your weak points. Those weak points are likely to break if you’ve skimped on the first 4 steps.

 

If you are injury free and have a good fitness base then you can go for it. Go far. Go fast. Do those sessions your mind thinks you can’t do. Then take some time to recover and go for it again. This leads to big performance gains.

 

We don’t need this level of hard work in every training week. When your body is ready for it, it only takes a small amount of this high end work to get the most out of yourself.

 

 

6. Prioritise sleep

 

The body does the majority of its repair work while it sleeps.

 

There’s no point in training if your body can’t recover from and adapt to it. Sleep plays a major role in this. So put it high up on your priority sleep.

 

My work has me doing rotating shift work. A mix of long day, afternoon, evening and night shifts. It plays havoc with my body clock. I have learnt the hard way getting less than adequate sleep leads to problems. Those problems include sickness, injury, poor performance and changes in appetite. My body doesn’t work anywhere near it’s best when sleep is compromised.

 

Put in the effort to plan ahead. Set up good sleep patterns. Make your room and bed comfortable to sleep in. Avoid bad timing of caffeine. Beware of computer, phone and television screens close to sleep time. Relax and give your body the time it needs to get you to your best.

How To Train Without A Goal Race: 3 Steps To Setup Your Running

How do you get your training together when you don’t have a goal race?

We’ve heard it before so many times before. Focus on your goal. Use your upcoming race to kick up your motivation. What if you don’t have a goal race? How do you get your training together?

This is the situation I find myself in at the moment. Just out of a failed attempt in a 100 mile race. I pick race goals to challenge me. They are big enough they require getting other aspects of my life in sync to achieve. As a result I don’t pick the big races lightly. I’ll take my time to see what resonates with me.

In the meantime I still need to train.

Here’s 3 Steps To Train Without A Goal Race

1. Make Yourself Injury Proof
2. Develop Your Aerobic Capacity
3. Create Training Goals

 

1. Make Yourself Injury Proof

 

The biggest influence on missed training is injury. If you can avoid the down time or reduced quality of training due to injury you will be much better.

If you are recently injured or have an ongoing problem, now is the time to sort it out. Get the issue properly assessed. Whether that be through a doctor who understands running, a good physiotherapist, a knowledgable coach or other person you trust. Find out the cause of the problem and fix it.

Each person and injury is different. For a general approach I find the following effective:
⦁ Dedicate 2-3 x 15 minutes each week to exercises dedicated your main injury concern
⦁ Include 2 general, whole body strength training sessions each week
⦁ Keep the majority of running within your current ability

 

2. Develop Your Aerobic Capacity

 

By aerobic capacity I mean the ability to move quickly for a long time without the build up of anaerobic byproducts. The exact details may vary depending on if you prefer to race 5km versus ultra marathons, but there is a good deal of crossover. There is a lot of evidence of suggesting most training should be well below your anaerobic threshold. Different training systems have different ways of arriving at a similar intensity level.

That level appears to correspond with the intensity where energy production is about a 50/50 split between fat versus carbohydrate. A bit slower than most trained runners could run a marathon. About 80-85% of anearobic threshold. RIght at what is sometimes termed as the first lactate threshold. Performing a consistent amount of training at this level leads to becoming fast at lower effort levels.

Personally I use the Maffetone Aerobic Function Heart Rate (MAF HR) as an easy guide. It may not be exact, but it gets fairly close. I find it practical and offers the ability to perform reliable field tests to check progress.

Developing your aerobic capacity raises your base running fitness. The training isn’t sexy, but given some consistency over time it sets you up for some big improvements.

 

3. Create Training Goals

 

Instead of having a big race goal. Set short term, attainable and progressive training goals.

Early on I stay clear of specific pace goals. Instead I focus on goals that set up good training habits. Such as:
⦁ Perform 2 general, whole body strength training sessions each week
⦁ Have the next day’s training clothes ready the night before
⦁ Resist the urge to surge at the end of run and stick to my heart rate zone
⦁ Cut up a fruit salad before training so it is ready for when I finish

Those goals can be anything. Think outside set times for certain distances. Go back to the process and use your motivation set up some strong habits.

 

Training Cycle

 

Time away from purely focusing on races is a necessary part of the training cycle. Give your mind and body a bit of freedom. Fix those injuries. Make yourself injury resistant. Improve your aerobic capacity. Create training goals and train without a race goal.

What is your approach?