Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My Current Spin on Complex Training

 I had been meaning to do a blog on this but Rich gave me a push and so here it is…

  I am a huge believer that the devil of racing fast is that you need a training system and not to just be running a lot and tossing in some random workouts.

  It is like cooking. Making a meal we can all pretty much figure out the ingredients and you can do pretty well as long as you put in good quality ingredients.  But the key to really making a great dish is to balance the ingredients properly and to mix them in at the right times.

  There are a number of great training programs out there and it is no secret that I had my greatest success using Renato Canova's program.  Although I actually set my 10k best off Joe Vigil's system and honestly if I had the time on weeknights I would love to use that again.   However time is a serious issue for me particularly on weekdays.

  My next issue is that I like simple repetitive training.  I am a creature of habit and I like to keep to a routine.  With all that in mind I settled on the idea of using Australian complex training.  This system was started by Pat Clohessy who coached 2:07:50 man Rob de Castella as well as 2:11 and sub 28' 10k man Chris Wardlaw.  Wardlaw in turn would use the system to coach Steve Moneghetti who would run 1:00:07 and 2:08:10.   A number of other of great runners came out of this system.

  The basic system is workouts on Tuesday and Thursday tempo or race on Saturday a medium long run on Wednesday and a long run on Sunday.  The key is in the details of this system.  The track and fartlek work is almost all alternation or 'bounce' threshold style- which means the recoveries are fast enough that you get a huge improvement in your threshold when using them.  The long run involves either hard climbs or a fast finish and should be run at the quicker end of your training pace.  Also some form of sprinting and hills would be mixed in.

  The way you adjust this program from season to season or event to event is to make twists in the sessions themselves.  So when getting ready for a marathon you would do a set of Aussie quarters with slower reps but faster rest then you would when getting ready for a 5k.

  Anyway I used this as my jumping off point.  I love that the standard weekday workouts tend to work multiple systems and don't take too long so I can get them done and still get to bed in time to be ok to get up for the morning run the next day.

  My two week cycle

Week 1
Monday- AM 6 PM 10 to 12 miles

Tuesday AM 6 PM Mona Fartlek http://nateruns.blogspot.com/2015/01/monaghetti-fartlek.html

Wednesday PM medium long run 15 to 18 miles

Thursday AM 6 PM 3 miles of sprint float sprint

Friday AM 6 PM 10 to 12 miles

Saturday - Fundamental paced tempo(5:50 down to 5:20 pace depending on conditions and fitness) run of 15 to 25 miles

Sunday 6 and 6 double

Week 2
Monday AM 6 PM 10 to 12 miles

Tuesday AM 6 PM Mona Fartlek

Wednesday PM medium long run 15 to 18 miles

Thursday AM 6 PM 3 mile tempo 4x400 hills- After the winter is over I'll do Aussie Quarters http://nateruns.blogspot.com/2014/12/workout-wednesday-australian-quarters.html

Friday AM 6 PM 10 to 12 miles

Saturday AM Tempo run or race PM 6

Sunday AM 22 miles with last two miles fast- goal 5:00 pace.

So obviously the fundamental paced run is a Canova session. It is a session I love to do and I have finally got my coordination to the point where I can do them again.  Also it is a session I get huge fitness from.

  Also if I start to do marathon training I'll do marathon workouts for the long runs.  I have always felt that the Aussie system was good for the marathon but not perfect.  For example if you look at Steve Moneghetti's PR's he slows at just about 5 seconds per K as the distance doubles from 3k to the half marathon.  If he continued this to the marathon he would have a best of 2:04:11.  I think with specific work he could have run the marathon in that range off his fitness.  To be clear I don't think he could have actually run that time in the early to mid 90's when he was racing at his best.  He would have needed pace setters and competitors willing to chase that sort of time and that didn't exist at that time but he certainly could have been closer to it.   I could and should write a whole blog on the basic idea but the short story is look at the top times in the 5k, 10k, half marathon from the 1990's and early 2000's and the times in the marathon.  Look at the times today.   The change in the marathon is stunning. The other events are close to the same, actually on the track a they are weaker with the drop in epo use and decrease of money in those events.  Road race times are roughly the same.  What happened?  The kenyans and Ethiopians embraced the Italian style marathon program and began to run within 3 to 5% of their half marathon performance in the marathon.

  That is my basic cycle. I can do it cover all my bases and stay healthy and almost get enough sleep to keep myself together.


Rich Heffron (Heff) said...


Great stuff! I've always been attracted to the simplicity yet rigor of the Complex Training system but I've never given it a fair shot. I might also try it out this spring given my time constraints. The title "complex" amuses me—given its simplicity—but I'm guessing it's in reference to the fact that the plan hits on many different systems every week or two.

Also, this LRC thread is informative for readers who want a bit more info: http://www.letsrun.com/forum/flat_read.php?thread=3294102

Thanks for posting this.

Best, —RH

Jacob said...

Nate, this is great information. For the 4 x 400m hills after the 3 mile tempo, how hard are these run? Are they all out?

Kyle Kranz said...

Great post Nate.

I am also a creature of habit, it's what I miss most about being out of university.

This Australian Complex System is new to me, however I am familiar with the concept, just not this exact method. It seems to be an almost year round schedule that can eb and flow based on the current needs of the athlete, but it's not exactly true periodization in that it extensively and intensively builds and progresses towards a goal.

This type of system may be really really spot on for someone racing frequently, I think? During the summer months here in the midwest all the races are crammed together, and right now there are none. Currently I'm in a long half training block, but this may be nice for the summer when there are more frequent races I'd love to attend.

Nate Jenkins said...

Jacob- I do the 3 mile tempo fast, half marathon to 10k pace so that is a fairly hard but not totally max effort. the hill reps are max effort but I do them like I do all hard hills I ease in and increase the effort as I climb so at half way I feel pretty good.

Kyle- Certainly if you have long stretches away from racing you can do well on a system that is much more periodized. I don't know that complex was set up with the idea of racing a ton. I think it was set up with the idea that the Aussies only get a handful of good races but they are all over the calendar so you need to be ready to run well whenever the opportunity arises. So for example a guy like Moneghetti might have only raced 10 times in a year and they were in 8 different months but he would race WELL in all of them. On a Lydiard system a guy who raced 10 time would do them all in a 12 week period if he wanted to run well. One isn't better than the other in a general way. But one or the other might be a lot better for a certain racing schedule.

TJ said...

Glad to see the blog up and running :)

TJ said...

I don't see any hill sprints in this plan? Maybe you answered this before but why the absence in your plan of these?

Nate Jenkins said...

I didn't put them in. I actually have been doing strides more than short hills because I'm trying very hard to not hunch and I tend to do that more on uphills.
the short hills are for muscular power and stroke volume. So on this cycle I have the sprint float sprint for that. I will likely be mixing strides when I get the chance. I will also probably do short hills from time to time but no full crazy sessions of 25 to 50 of them like I once did.

max den said...

Amazing post.

Jack Vamvas said...

Hi Nat, very informative post . I’ve been using this system for a couple of years with good marathon progress. How would you incorporate more marathon pace work in the long runs?would it be in both the midweek and Sunday long run?

Nate Jenkins said...

Jack- I've struggled with this. I think if you drop the Saturday workout you can do either a mp specific workout on Sunday- like 4 to 6 x 4k to 8k at mp with 1k recoveries at 80% to 90% mp recoveries. or a 20 to 24 mile run at 90 to 95% of marathon pace.
I wouldn't try much mp in the midweek run given the level of work needed for Tuesday and Thursday's workouts. Perhaps finishing with an mp mile or two but nothing more for sure.
Lastly the amount of alternation work in the complex system is huge for marathon training. I don't know the physiology of why but systems that do alternations produce really good results in marathons even they don't do much specific marathon work. The Aussie athletes may not have equaled the small slow down from half marathon to marathon pace that modern trained athletes have but they were vastly better on average than athletes from other systems that don't do a lot of marathon specific work.