Thursday, August 17, 2017

Planning a Training Schedule Basics; how to periodize your training to run your best

  The most important part of planning a full training cycle is to understand that training can be mostly dropped into three categories.  Training to improve your general physical qualities which may or may not make you race faster on its own but increases your ability to do more specific training.  Two, training to improve your ability to run fast generally, but not necessarily over a specific distance.  Three, workouts that directly increase your ability to run faster over a specific distance but may or may not improve your actual fitness. Put another way you do workouts to build the ability to do workouts that build the ability to run fast finally you do workouts to shape your fitness to perform your best at a specific distance.

  How you go about accomplishing this with your workouts is very much up to interpretation.  You may choose to do basically the same workouts year round and to change how they are executed in order to accomplish the goals of your season.  You may choose to do very different workouts for each phase to a such a degree that a sample week from each phase would seem completely unrelated. As long as you have embraced the general idea of progressing workouts to build to a peak set of races and a new plane of fitness you are ready to lay out your schedule.

  Step one in setting your schedule has to be time.  When is your goal race?  How many weeks do you have between now and then.  If the answer to that question is much less than twelve and you are not already about as good as you think you can be long term then I would suggest that you pick another goal race.  It is certainly possible to get ready to race in 10 weeks, or even less time, but you are not going to make any step forward in your general fitness.  Basically you can only run up to your stored potential not change your baseline.  So for example Nick Willis was hurt this spring and only started running 10 weeks before worlds.  His first workout was only 7 weeks before worlds.  The result?  He finished 8th.  So frankly the results were awesome.  The thing to remember is Nick's baseline after all these years is incredibly high, there are no major breakthroughs left to make. He is within spitting distance of the limits of the human body as we understand them today.  I have little doubt that if this was 15 years ago and Nick was in college and running just under 4:00 for the mile he and his coach would have approached things differently targeted fall cross country, trained through worlds, got knocked out in the heats at worlds, and made another step towards becoming the sub 3:50 miler and two time Olympic Medalist that he is.

  This raises the question is there a block of time that is too long?  Arthur Lydiard would say no, he liked to do year long cycles.  Personally I find that though I can make a cycle longer than 6 months work I don't seem to improve as much as if I break that period of time into two cycles.   So if you are looking at something in the 8 to 12 month range I would find another target race about half way between now and your big goal race to target as an interim goal.  In the long run I think you will find you will run better in the big goal race doing it that way.

  Once you know how much time you have you can create your cycles.  If your goal race is a marathon then you are going to taper for 1 to 3 weeks before the race and the rest of your season you will be training pretty hard.  If your goal race is shorter you may want to create a racing season of 4 to 8 weeks around it where your mileage is low, 50 to 60% of your normal volume, with lower volume, high intensity workouts and a lot of racing, at least one per week.   I would put the main goal race 2 to 4 weeks into this race phase, the first couple of weeks of lighter volume will serve as the taper and realizing that after 4 to 8 weeks of training at this lower volume your fitness will start to erode.

  For your specific phase you want to plan 5 to 7 weeks.  You can squeak by with 4 weeks particularly if you are doing a shorter distance racing season like described above.  You can stretch this to 8 weeks, particularly if you are focused on a marathon or half marathon and have a half marathon or two slipped into the specific phase as tune up races.  Keep in mind that there are limited returns on the specific phase. Meaning that if you go too long you will not get faster.  This is the training that shapes your fitness not the phase that builds it.  You polish the diamond but you aren't making it bigger or harder.

  Some people do a very clear middle phase, a pre-competition or special phase.  For me it is always the transition period from the end of the base and the beginning of the specific phase.  So in my case it isn't well defined.  I may be doing a workout that is really a special phase workout for one system while my other workout the same week is really still firmly in the base phase.  Either way this phase should really be three or four weeks.  Five at the absolute most.  You are starting to do some very hard, and in the case of the 10k down, very anaerobic workouts here. On top of that your volume is still very high.  If you push this phase too long you are just going to end up sick or hurt.

  The rest of your time is the base phase.  For me this is a period that naturally progresses into the special phase and I adjust the progression of my workouts based on how much time I have.  You have a lot of flexibility in the length of this cycle.  The work you are doing may be hard but it isn't as tough on your system as some of the other phases so you can,in a jam, easily train like this for 3 months or even more. Ideally I suggest 6 to 8 weeks but longer is ok.

  You can get away with less but this is the phase where the work is done for big improvements so you are selling yourself short if you are cutting this cycle short.  However in a situation like high school or college where you are running three seasons this can be tough.  My advice in those situations is to follow a program that has less variation from cycle to cycle so that you can always be in acceptable racing shape but utilize subtle adjustments so that you are actually targeting long term improvement.  Also during the early part of the indoor and outdoor seasons try to hit a couple of very good base phase workouts. For example a strong fundamental tempo or two or a really good hill circuit workout.  These are good because you need them but also if you have been doing a lot of race specific work you are really starting to get limited returns by the end of the season and doing these sort of workouts for a couple weeks gives your body a chance to target other systems and your mind a chance to focus on different tasks.  This will not only be better for your physical development but also for your mental motivation and sanity.  Then of course you can get in an extended base phase during the summer.

  To set up your general outline go through this process:
  1. When is my goal race? count back your taper from that day.
2. Allow 4 to 6 weeks for specific training.
3. Allow 3 to 4 weeks for special training.
4. How much time does that leave?  If it is less than 4 weeks strongly consider changing your goal race. This time is your base phase.
  

  A word on racing through the phases.  It is ok to race in all of these phases but races that are run during the non- specific phase should not be tapered for, it is always ok to reduce training after to recover if needed.  Also it is important to understand that improvements in the early and even middle phase may not translate directly to results in racing.  This is more and more likely the case the shorter the race you run.  It is key that you focus on the progression of your workouts during this time instead of any race or time trial to measure your fitness gains, as these can be misleading.  For example lets say you ran 10:00 for two miles last spring and you are spending your summer doing base work after a couple weeks recovery back in June.  Over the last couple months you have taken your fundamental tempo from 6 miles at 6 minute pace to 12 miles at 6 minute pace.  You have also found that in your hill circuit you can now do 5 sets instead of the 3 you started with and your able to accomplish each set 5 to 10 seconds faster.  You have made a huge jump in fitness!  But if you go and run a two mile time trial with your teammates to kick off cross country season.  You will likely run in the 10:20 range.  This can seem like a failure.  I mean you were so much faster in the spring.  The key is that you have not been training to improve your race specifically.  You have created in your body a fitness that will enable you to do the workouts needed to run a much faster 2 mile but you're not there right now. That is totally ok because your state championship is still almost three months away and you will be ready to split sub 10 on your way to 5k by the time it rolls around.  You need to focus on the improvements in your workouts as a measure of your increased fitness.

  That said don't panic if you do run 9:50 in our hypothetical time trial.  As long as your base workouts have shown improvement it just means that your base fitness was so poor that you have been able to move past your sharpened up race fitness by improving it.  Your in for some great improvements. However if you did improve greatly in the time trial but you hadn't seen improvement in your base workouts you may want to re-evaluate your training as you may be doing too much specific work and not enough general fitness work.

 Next up you need to progress our workouts through the phases. All of your workouts should have a logical progression and a specific end goal.  They may get longer, they may get faster, the recovery may get shorter, but each should have an end goal and a clear step by step progression there.  That goal should be directly related to your race goal.  If you are having trouble figuring this part out it can be helpful to think of it this way.
What are the workouts needed to run X time for my goal race.?
 Those are your final goal workouts.  
Now what type of workouts would set someone up to do those workouts?  
Those are your special and early specific workouts. 
What type of workouts need to done to build the general fitness to do those workouts?
Those are your end of base phase workouts
What am I capable of doing right now for the type of workouts I want to run at the end of my base phase?
Those are your starting workouts

  Let's look at how a couple of workouts might progress through the seasons.   First let's stick with our 10:00 two miler heading into cross country.  Looking at his specific pace work it is reasonable for this athlete to have a goal of 15:30 for a fast 5k, or a 5k goal pace of 5:00 mile pace.  In the base phase I would have this athlete start with 10 to 20  200 meter reps at goal pace with 200 meters jogging or 1 minute standing recovery.  The idea would be run the pace as even and as relaxed as possible.  You don't want this to be a hard session.   The second session would be 20 to 25 x 200 with the same rest, the same pace, and the same goal.  We have simply extended the volume of the session.  The third session would be 12x400 meters at goal pace with 2mins recovery,  once again you have the same goal of relaxation.  We have kept the global volume the same but increased the duration of each rep, moving us one step closer to our end goal of holding this pace for 5k with no breaks.

  Keep in mind these sessions would be among the easiest of the base phase, as specific work is the least targeted during this phase.  Moving into the special phase I would do the 12x400 again but now with only a 100 meter jog recovery, same pace but now the goal shifts a little.  You still want to be as relaxed as possible but if the workout gets hard then you need to run as hard as needed to still hit the pace.   At the end of the special phase I would extend this workout to something like 8 to 10x600m at goal pace with 200m rest.  As you come into the special phase the frequency and the intensity of the specific workouts should increase.  Also your max lass workouts should now involve a lot of specific pace running, and your alternations/threshold work could now involve a lot of specific pace running as well.  The specific workout we have been tracking would be repeated a few more times during the specific phase, each time increasing the distance of the rep while not changing the pace or increasing the recovery.

  Let's look at another type of workout and how it might be progressed.  Mile repeats.  Using our same athlete and assuming a mile PR in the 4:30 to 4:40 range I would have him start with a session like 6xmile at one minute slower than mile PB, so 5:30 to 5:40 with a full 3 minutes recovery.  The goal of the session in this phase is to build muscular endurance and aerobic fitness.  The reps should feel very relaxed and the recovery should seem to long.  I would not progress this workout much through the base phase but I would repeat it a few times.  Measuring improvement by how much more relaxed the athlete can feel.  Moving into the special phase I would keep the number of reps, 6, and the rest, 3 minutes, the same but I would increase the pace.  Trying to run 5 to 10 seconds faster, per mile, each time the workout is repeated.  I would carry this type of increase into the specific phase.  As the pace approaches 5:00 per mile this workout will get very hard and it may be necessary to decrease the volume to 4 or 5 repeats in order for the athlete to complete the session at 5:00 pace but in young or fast improving athletes you will often see them able to run the goal pace for 6 reps by the end of the specific phase.  So in this case we have adjusted a workout to change it's focus rather than adjust the intensity of a workout to match the phase. As a side not if I was prepping the athlete for the 10k I would likely not drop the pace all the way to 5k pace instead stopping at 10k pace, say 5:10? for this athlete, but I would reduce the recovery to 1 or 2 mins or a 200 to 400 meter jog.

  To sum up.  Find your timeline.  Plan for a taper or racing season, plan 4 to 6 weeks of specific training, 3 to 4 weeks of special training and the time you have remaining is for base work.  Make sure that your workouts address all areas of fitness with particular focus on the four pillars of successful racing, http://nateruns.blogspot.com/2017/08/four-pillars-of-training-for-fast.html.  Make sure that your workouts all have a purpose, which often is to build the ability to do the next similar workout, and an end goal which should be to race a specific distance at a specific pace or competitive level.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Four Pillars of Training for Fast Running

   Over the last twenty years of training I have found in my own training and in looking at the training of others with much better success than I've had that there seem to be four types of workouts you should focus on to build a balanced fitness and run up to the maximum of your potential.  These are not the only running you should do but they are sessions that are used regularly in pretty much every program I have looked at that produced unusually good results.

  These sessions are not an exhaustive list of all the types of workouts you should do but they are the four main pillars that hold up all of the other training.  If you are doing these you will do well.  If you aren't you will likely not get the most out of yourself.

  Pillar 1- Fundamental tempos- These have many names, I've used Renato Canova's name for them.  Jerry Schumacher calls them rythm runs, Joe Vigil calls them, fast endurance runs or 30km tests, George Malley or Bob Hodge would probably call it running a bit faster than normal sometimes.  Call them what you want, just make sure you do them. These are longer runs at pace that is faster than training pace but not as fast as tempo pace.  For a beginning, low mileage runner this might only be five or six miles long.  For a competitive marathoner they might get as long as thirty miles.   The key to this session is relaxation at a pace that is not exactly fast but is faster than you do or really could do day in day out for your training runs.   A good starting place for these is a minute per mile slower than your 5k race pace.  These should be done throughout the training year but you would do them much more often during the early phases and much less as you get into the thick of your racing season.  Similarly these are important for all runners but even more so for the developing runner.

  Pillar 2- Specific work/max lass workouts- I combine these because if your event is 1500 to 10k then the specific version of the max lass workouts is your key specific workouts but in the marathon the key is much more just specific paced running and max lass becomes much more secondary.   For me specific workouts mean running within about 1% of race pace.  So if your training to run a ten minute two mile specific pace would be 4:57 to 5:03 per mile.  I would hesitate a guess that more effort is wasted on running, supposedly, specific workouts that are too fast than in any other area of training.  If your goal is a 10 minute two mile and the quarter repeats you are doing feel too easy at 75 you should NOT run them faster.  You should either run them with shorter rest or you should run longer repeats at the same pace.  If it is early in the training cycle then you should focus on embracing the efforts feeling easy and try to make them feel as easy as you possibly can.

  Max lass workouts are workouts that try to create an ability to hold the amount of lacate, ie acid, in your blood at an essentially steady level while running your specific race pace.  For a long time it was thought that you could only really do this at 10 mile to half marathon race pace but it has been found that athletes can produce a defacto max lass at much faster paces, ie 3k to 10k race pace, where they hold lactate levels basically steady for 5 to 25 minutes.  Workouts for max lass in the base phase focus on doing explosive work, like short hill sprints, bounding, sprinting etc., while your body has a ton of latic acid in it.  This can be accomplished through hill circuits or doing hard track repeats with circuits or hill sprints mixed into the rests between the intervals.  As you move to the specific phase these workouts morph to involve repetitions at race pace mixed with explosive sprint reps.

  These workouts, both specific marathon workouts and max lass workouts, are only a small change from traditional or "normal" workouts. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you are fine just doing your regular sessions and working hard.  These sessions are probably the biggest difference in the performances we see today verses the 1980's.   For a long period of time it seemed that the best in the world were sort of pinned into the 13 teens, 27 lows and 2:07 to 2:08 range.  Now I'm not trying to say that EPO wasn't involved in the sudden proliferation of sub 13 men in the 1990's.  I'm not that naive.  That said there were many highly dedicated very hard working and talented men in the 1970's and 80's and only a few slipped under 13:10, notably Henry Rono and David Moorecroft.  Even if you discount some of the best in the world today there are many athletes who I feel very secure in saying are clean who are running well under 13:10.  Ben True, Hassan Mead, Chris Solinsky, Matt Tegankamp, Sam Chelanga come to mind very quickly.  I simply don't believe they are more talented then say Matt Centrowitz Sr., 13:12 or Lasse Viren, 13:16.  When you look at this improved standard and then consider that the vast majority of the training is unchanged in the last fourty years it becomes clear that something subtle but important has happened.  Both generations did high mileage.  Both generations did tempo runs, intervals, long runs.  Both generations ran on mondo tracks and even had pace setters, though admittedly Viren never ran well in a race that was paced.  This leaves the question, what is different?  The answer, to my mind, is in the two types of workouts I have highlighted above.  So if you are asking do I think that if the runners of the past were doing more of these sessions they would have been faster my simple answer is yes.  I do not believe it is likely or even possible that someone like Craig Virgin could have worked harder than he did and he ran 8:40.9 for two miles in high school so it is also unlikely that any number of athletes are significantly more talented than he was.   Yet we have a number of guys running much faster.  Some of this could be chalked up to faster races.  I have no doubt that at times in his career Craig could have run in the 13:10 range if the race had been going at that pace but I find it hard to believe simple pacing would drop him 20 seconds.  So what are the likes of Ben True, 13:02, Matt Tegenkamp, 12:58 and Chris Solinsky, 12:55 doing differently?  I believe the answer is fundamental tempos and max lass workouts.  Though I' imagine that none of them call them by those names.

Pillar 3- Threshold workouts.  Traditionally this would be your half marathon paced tempo run.  I would include those but I personally focus much more on alternation style intervals.  I believe these are far more effective in improving threshold as well as overall fitness.  Your threshold or steady state pace is the single most important fitness maker in deciding your success in races from 3k to marathon.  If you have a high threshold you will race well.  If you have also do some decent specific workouts with that high threshold you will race very well.   Raising your threshold is how you make a pace that is hard to run for longer than a few hundred meters into something you can run easily for a few miles.
  Alternation workouts for threshold included things like Aussie Quarters, http://nateruns.blogspot.com/2014/12/workout-wednesday-australian-quarters.html, Moneghetti Fartleks, http://nateruns.blogspot.com/2015/01/monaghetti-fartlek.html, or Renato Canova style alternations, http://nateruns.blogspot.com/2015/02/workout-wednesday-alternations-for-5k.html.  Basically any workout where you mix in intervals of faster than half marathon paced running with quick, faster than regular training paced, recoveries.
 Threshold workouts are closely related to the fundamental tempos in terms of the changes that they create in your body.  Improvements in one of these workouts will lead to improvements in the other.  If you find yourself plateaued in either of these work types very often the answer is to focus on the other.  For more than a year early in my career I could not find a way to run a threshold run under 5:10 per mile or so.  If I did one mile at 5:00 pace it felt painfully easy but somewhere between 3 and 5 miles it became incredibly hard. Then I found fundamental tempo's and within a few months I could do 5 mile tempo runs at 4:50 per mile.  In the more then a decade that has past since I have seen this connection in my training again and again.

Pillar 4- Speed work.  This is NOT anaerobic work.  This is work focused on teaching the body to run fast while remaining relaxed.  This can be as simple as strides.  It can be done in great volume or in very low volume with great regularity.  I try to never let a week go by where I don't do at least some session for speed.  Joe Vigil, who is a much better coach then me, tries to never let a day go by where it doesn't get touched on.
   Nearly everyone runs fast in their training but too often we fall into the trap of thinking fast and hard are the same thing.  Much like the workouts in pillar one speed sessions should not be hard. They are more than an easy day but not nearly a hard day.  You can address the need for this type of work in a ton of different ways.  You can do sets of strides, 4 to 15, as often as daily or you can do short hill sprints, under 15 seconds.  I often do longer sessions like 30x100m or mix 10 to 20 second high speed bursts into a regular run with full recovery between efforts.  The two keys to this type of work are a focus on good, relaxed, powerful running form and taking full recovery between efforts.  It is easy to slip into not taking enough rest between these sessions, it is all but impossible to take too much recovery.

  There you have it.  As I stated above I don't expect this to be the only training you do but I do expect that this is what your training schedule should be designed around. If you are regularly working on all of these systems you will do well.  If you then start to put them into a well designed progression of increased volume and periodized adjustments you will be truly training and not just running and you will see some impressive results.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Weekly Training Blog August 7 to 13, 2017

Monday AM 10k, started with Uta and Melissa, 45:03, starting to cough more after feeling kinda shitty last 2 or 3 days.
PM 10.2 miles around Northfield Mount Hermon, first 7 miles or so with camp counselors, 1:21:47

Tuesday PM road 4 with Uta, 29:04, basically only ran to get Uta some exercise.  Felt pretty shitty, coughing a lot.

Wednesday PM road 5, 34:44, still sick.

Thursday AM at granite state camp as a speaker.  I was pretty sick and didn't hang out long but had a good time all the same.  should have stuck around to run but I had decided to take the day off
PM Found out Melissa had Lyme and felt like a wuss for wanting to take a the day off for a small cold so I did a road 5 in 34:31

Friday Noon road 10, 1:05:45, feeling better, but coughing a lot.

Saturday PM road 10, 1:05:14, coughing less, feel normal other than that and some left of sinus stuff I'm about ready to go

Sunday AM 10.4 on roads, first 2k with Melissa and Uta, coughing only after runs now.
PM road 5, 34:27

Summary 66 miles or so for the week, no quality, but I'm healthy again and nothing much was lost but time.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Training Blog July 31 to August 6, 2017

Monday AM 3+ warm up, drills, strides, 200m in 31, jogging, Aussie Quarters averaged 68/45 fastest rep was 67.0 on the last one, slowest was 69.2 on the penultimate one.  15:18 for the 3 miles.  Huge improvement, not a great session in the scope of things but massive improvement from where I have been. 3.5 cool down
PM road 5 with Uta in 35:49, dead lifts after the run

Tuesday AM road 10 solo, 1:06:16
PM 5 miles around Phillips fields with Uta and Melissa in 44:19

Wednesday AM paced Melissa's 8 mile progression run on Chelmsford rail trail, 54:16
PM 3+ warm up, drills, 400m in 74, 500m jogging, then 30x100m in 15 with 100m slow jog full recovery, 3.5 cool down

Thursday AM road 12 solo, 1:19:11, squats after the run
PM road 5 solo, 34:57

Friday AM some lifting, drills and massage with Anna
Noon road 10, 1:10:08
took rest of day off, coming down with sore throat, very tired

Saturday AM 3+ warm up, drills, strides, quarter mile in 69, Race John Leclerc windmill 5k in Templeton, 1st place CR, 15:10, splits 5:00, 9:57, 14:42.  Still a bit sick, not the best effort.  Not sharp enough to run real hard from the front.  All in all I was pretty happy with this, for where I am at right now. 3 mile cool down largely with the next two finishers.
PM road 5, 35:51
A quarter mile or so into the race.

Sunday AM road 8.2 with Uta, 57:15
PM road 8.2 solo, 55:42.  I would have done a longer run today but I was feeling pretty shitty still and decided to do a bit less in hopes of aiding my return to being not sick...

Summary 108 miles for the week, nice Aussie quarters session, nice rust buster race, good speed/muscular session. I feel like I'm moving forward real well overall.  The coordination hasn't been good.  I doubt I would have held it for much longer had I gone past 12 on Tuesday.  I'm not fit but I really feel like I'm improving very steadily and I could see myself running pretty well in another month or two at this rate.   I hope you are training well.  

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