November 2016

Everybody needs an old faithful.

I awoke this morning with the normal pre-running fatigue that tends to happen when you run twice a day , every day and are about to move into your second half century. My running friend for the morning had cried off but will remain nameless, mark lee so I struggled to the door and crawled up the street to start my 10k ‘old faithful’ route for the 181st time (thanks Strava).

The sun was about to rise behind me as I started down the first hill which is always a great way to start a run in my opinion because the auto pilot light really is shining brightly for the 1k and also gravity as a co-pilot certainly helps, initially. I hit the 1k mark as I’m about 200m up the second challenge for the day as small hill to make up for the soft start. Again a good thing as this starts to engage the mind and the legs start to wake up. This small hill then gives ways to another decline before I cross the road into Star Swamp and the highlight of the morning run.

I time my start each day so I can see the sunrise from Star Swamp and every time I do it is like the first time. To describe it as inspiring does not do this justice but it will have to do. The temperature to is normally just about perfect at 5am making the whole experience so worth the early start. It is about here I am starting to warm to the task and must admit every time I see the sunrise, through the trees and bush, it brings a smile to my face.

I get about a kilometre of trail running before I am ejected back onto the bike path and start another incline for 500m before a kilometre of decline that encourages pace and caresses you to the start of the Carine park entrance.  Here I normally get to enjoy the park alone and again bathed in sunshine peaking though the trees. I make an effort to look up while in the park as so many times I am focused on the ground 20 metres ahead of me. The park , like the trail in the swamp, can be inspiring if the light catches the surrounding trees and you have fingers of sunshine protruding all around you.

The park eventually gives way to the last hill of the run which can be used as a final test to raise the heart rate or as a time to reflect on the run as a whole and start planning run number two, one is never enough surely.

Although I’m normally chasing a sunrise I also use this as a double up run after work and race the sunset. Instead of the first light of a new dawn you’re racing against the last light of the day. Where as in the morning the sun can be on your back as you race the sunset it is ahead of you slowly disappearing to the horizon. This brings into play more wondrous images as you run into the last breath of the day.  Same run but from a totally different light, which can make it feel like a new run completely. It’s get better, there is even a third option as you run in the middle of the day and , being Perth is really built in a desert, you dart from shade to shade avoiding the intense glare of the sun at the height of it’s prowess, an intimidating beast of pure heat and anger. Running really is the sport that just keeps on giving.

So that is my old faithful, go-to, 10k. One I run at least three or four times a week and one I never get tired off. All runners need an ‘old faithful’ because training for a marathon, or any distance really, requires repetition and sometimes you just need to switch off and get the job done. Having a run that allows you to tick all the training requirement boxes without the added pressure of too much thinking is paramount to success. Let’s face it marathon training can be , at times, a ‘slog’ , and that’s putting it nicely. To me a marathon is really about two thousand  kilometres of training with a final 42k run to the finish. It’s the two thousand training kilometres in all sort of conditions that people don’t see,  not the final 42k that is for the public and record books.

Tomorrow morning set the alarm a bit earlier and go and chase a sunrise, you never know you may find a new friend that over time cam turn into an old faithful and for runners that ain’t a bad thing……..

Got to start somewhere...
Got to start somewhere…

10 miles is a long way to go after chasing 5k runners.

Today I put on my race bib for the first time since the Masters marathon three weeks ago. I normally allow four weeks before I race after a marathon but this race is special as I won last year, mainly because none of the normal suspects turned up.  The WAMC (West Australian Marathon Club http://www.wamc.org.au ) Founders 10miler (16k) is one of my favourite races in the calendar and I have placed in it on two previous occasions with a win last year. The opportunity to defend my ‘title‘ was too good to pass up so after a day off yesterday I set off to the event.

Some people recover quicker than others when it comes to racing marathons and as I mentioned earlier I’m a four week man normally. This is inline with a day per mile going with the imperial system of measurement, so about 26 days.  Other people like Tony ‘The T-train’ Smith use the same imperial system but substitute the day for hours so he can recover in about 26 hours. He is one naughty runner !

This event also includes a 5.15k as well as the 16.1k race. This always make the start interesting because you are never sure who you are racing until after the 5.15k runners dart for the finish line instead of ‘manning’ up and continuing on for the full distance. (I need to be careful here because I have been known on a few occasions to be tempted by bling and take the easier option when faced with a podium for the 5k or a top 5, with no medal, for the longer distance. I admit it , I have a bling problem…)

As expected the start was quick as a number of 5k runners set off at their ‘suicide’ pace and I joined them with the goal of staying as close as possible to the leaders incase one of them decided to continue after the finish line and go long. I didn’t want to leave myself with too much to do to catch them. This works great in theory but of course the fly in the ointment is you normally end up going through 5.15k just behind the leaders and way too fast for a 16k race. As expected this is what happened and I went through the 5.15k mark in second place at 17:35, must admit it was tempting, run through the chute for a nice shiny silver medal and all the pain ends or carry on for another 11k curled up in the foetal position in the pain box.

Funnily enough I was reading the Lore of Running by Tim Noakes yesterday (The bible of all things running.) and the chapter on Training the Mind. (Remember I didn’t run yesterday so what else is there to do but reading about running?) This went into detail about how the mind can be trained during competition. Paragraph headings like dominate from the start, allow for the unexpected, concentrate and focus, give a maximum effort and perform up to expectation. All easy to read while you wait for your daughter to finish her dancing lesson but when you’re racing at maximum effort and in a world of pain it’s not so easy. I did recall this while racing and it certainly brought at least a smirk to my face, not sure I ever really smile when I’m racing short distances.

Right, where were we, of yes at 5.15k and in the lead as the only runner infront of me was a 5.1.5k runner and had scuttled of to collect his gold medal. So it was just me and the lead bike ridden by my friend Ross who I run with on the weekend. Ross is a good lead bike in the fact he knows just to ride, let runners know I’m coming and avoid any type of conversation with me as , like me, he knows when you’re racing it’s all about concentration and pain mitigation, conversation does not come into it, ever ! Luckily for me , like last year, none of the usual suspects turned up so I was able to record another victory, which at my age is cherished. This would be my third for the year but only my 6th ever top finish so it really is a wonderful feeling.

WAMC Founders 10 milers. A rare win.
WAMC Founders 10 milers. A rare win.

So what did I take from the run.

  1. Nothing makes you run faster than a race bib pinned to your chest. I understand this comes with a price, the nerves pre-race, doubting your ability, training and the pain you know you must go through to be your best. All these things are part and parcel of racing and need to be embraced and overcome. When you cross the line and achieve your goal all these are forgotten instantly and the ‘runners high’ that takes their place justifies everything that comes pre-race. You will also use more fast-twitch muscles in these race situations with is another big benefit.
  2. You need to be realistic pre-race and set yourself goals determined by past experience, current training workload and pre-race training runs. Every race cannot be a PB time so adjust your goal accordingly. You may not need the goal A, B or C option that comes with longer races but still give yourself a range of what could be called ‘acceptable’.
  3. Do not start the race at suicide pace and then expect to finish strong. Doesn’t happen unfortunately. As described above my splits were not ‘one for the ages’. They varied by around 20 seconds a kilometer which is not ideal. Ideally I should have started about 10 seconds a kilometre slower and this would helped to towards the end of the race. I knew I had started too quick but experience allowed me to roll the dice so to speak in an effort to give me a good buffer to second place. This would have been enough to probably make them settle for second early and not make an effort to catch me. This is more racing tactics but even in the middle of the pack you are racing people and this little tip may help gain a few places.  (Assuming the suicide pace start doesn’t morph into a suicide pace finish which has the opposite effect.)
  4. Enjoy the experience of racing as these times are the litmus test of your training and can be a great confidence booster and also give you renewed energy once you get back into the ‘slog‘ of daily training.  You will find a spring in your step (after a few recovery runs) after a successful race and this can be carried forward to the next one and beyond. I certainly use races as justification for all the hard effort I put myself yourself through in training, coupled with the benefit of point 1 of course.
  5. Sometimes a good race can move a runner to a new level complete with new expectations and goals. Yesterday my mate Gareth ran a 10 minute PB and was elated with the whole experience. I have mentioned Gareth before in my posts as the ‘runner who treats running as something he does in-between injuries” , to see him so animated after such a great run sums up the feeling only a race can give you when you achieve something you thought beyond you. Gareth has been on the cusp of breaking through his current ‘expected times’ on a number of occasions but has been thwarted by injury, maybe yesterday was the start of his rise to greatness. If nothing else the run would have given him the confidence to move forward and I guarantee he’ll be ‘champing at the bit’ to get running post-race.

Had to end with an article I found on the subject of racing that probably sums it up better than my ramblings. So to sum up racing in a few words ‘just do it’.

 

 

7 Reasons to Make the Start Line Your Friend

BY CLINT CHEREPA

The race is the beauty part. The time you put it all together is the race,” said noted running author Dr. George Sheehan. And, whether you run one kilometre or 50, racing is exhilarating.

Many run so they can race, but some are leery of the endeavour. Let’s delve into why racing comes with benefits.

Community
Nick Walker, a runner for 15 years and owner of Frontrunners store in Langford, B.C., says racing helps connect people. “We find a lot of people through races who are new to the area,” he says. “Racing gives people a goal and purpose. It encourages them to get out and go.”
Keith Iskiw, a runner from Kingston, Ont., says, “No other sport allows both beginners and professionals to share the same arena. The excitement, tension and joy shared between people makes the race events fantastical.”
Alan Brookes, race director of the Canada Running Series, says racing gives people at the front a platform to develop athletic careers and gives amateur athletes a chance to race head-to-head against age-group categories and clubmates. New runners get a sense of achievement in their new, healthy lifestyle, with benchmarks, rewards and encouragement.

Motivation
“When I participate in an activity, I like to do it well. I don’t have to win. I just have to be satisfied that I gave my best effort,” says Jerry Kooyman, a runner who has competed at a national level, running in a couple of Canadian Olympic trials. When he hits rough patches in training, the prospect of a race motivates him to train and set goals such as achieving personal bests, winning medals or beating other successful runners.

Structure
Ken Parker is the founder and coach of the Ottawa Athletic Club Racing team. He is also a co-founder and race director of Ottawa’s National Capital Marathon. Parker is no stranger to racing; his marathon personal best is 2:42. He feels racing encourages discipline and enticed him to study running to optimize training. “It made me focus on a goal and get organized to do what was required to achieve that goal,” Parker says.
Walker, a former University of Victoria track athlete, says racing keeps him honest and modest. It keeps his competitive edge honed and says shorter races can be great preparation for longer challenges. Walker recently won the Island Race Series Sooke 10K and the Merville 15K, races he ran at 3:17 and 3:20 pace as part of the preparation for his first marathon in Vancouver in May. “I try to have a fun outlook,” says Walker. “But I take racing more seriously. I still like to push hard.”

Fears
Race-day fears are normal. After more than 40 years of racing, Kooyman says in the back of his mind he worries about injury during a race and fears that he will work hard during the race, only to be out-kicked at the end. Still, he keeps racing, leaving his fears in the dust of his race-day speed. Iskiw’s advice for hesitant runners is to remember we are built for competition, and that deep down we all have a drive to win and the only way to satisfy that hunger is through competition.

Measuring Progress
Your first 10K may not tell you much about your progress, but after a year of racing, a runner can gauge success.
“Progress may initially be measured by weight loss and increased mileage, but once I get beyond those basic measures and get into a regular training program, the most reliable measure of progress is improved race times,” Kooyman says.

Competition
Races open themselves to runners of all levels. A racer can compete even if he is at the back of the pack. A suggestion from Brookes is: “If you’re really nervous, start right at the back, run the first half easy, then count how many people you pass in the second half or the number you pass the whole way.”
Competition helped Parker. He says: “In the marathon, I ran against the clock and ignored other runners for the most part, using them only toward the end of the race when, hopefully, I was passing them. In track races, I used the head-to-head competition to race harder. Fast times would come as the result of racing a strong competitive field.”

Learn
Through his racing, Parker learned that anything worth doing is worth doing well and that success does not come about by accident. A progressive runner never stops learning. Introducing racing into your running program provides a platform of wisdom. You learn more about yourself, and running in general. The race and people involved provide the anecdotal evidence. The question lingers, “Why not race?” If you are hesitant to toe the starting line, take Kooyman’s words to heart: “You don’t know what you are missing!”

 

 

Ultra Marathon, you’d be mad not to wouldn’t you?

The things you do for your blog. Realising I could be ostracising a whole group of runners who cannot relate to most of my posts, (Because of my constant highlighting of race pace not because most of the time I’m talking….<inset comment > … be nice.) I’m talking about ultra runners, I have entered a 100k ultra marathon a week before my 50th birthday. ( http://australiadayultra.com) These runners would consider what I post normally alien to themselves and their fellow ‘long is the only way to run’ brothers (or sisters) in arms.  Not for them the ‘gush of the pain train’ as you explode into a 5k sprint or the mental torture of the 7th and 8th kilometre in a 10k race. Ultra runners are all about the slow drip-drip mental torture of going long and consider marathon runners and any distance runner less than 50k as show ponies. It gets even worse when you add trails and mountains into the equation. That’s when they all turn a bit weird in my view but each to their own. As I love my concrete big city marathons they love getting out there and reconnecting with nature. (I much prefer to connect with nature via a nice cafe selling decent coffee and fruit, albeit cocooned in a muffin?)

I’m not a complete novice to ultra marathons having ran 16 in my time ranging from 46k (remember anything longer than a marathon, albeit it even 4k, is considered an ultra.) up to 89k but I have never broken triple figures.  My ultra running career includes seven 6-inch finishes, ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com ) (ranging from 46k to 50k, I have got lost twice on this run.) four WAMC 40miler finishes (64k), two 50k’s (including the ADU last year http://australiadayultra.com ) and three Comrade finishes, albeit 6 years ago now. ( http://www.comrades.com )

In Perth the marathon season begins with the Bunbury marathon in April ( http://bunburyrunnersclub.org/3-waters-marathon/ ) and then moves onto the Perth marathon in June, Geraldton next before the City to Surf marathon in August and finishes with the Rottnest marathon in October. Between October and May it’s ultra time with the 6 inch ultra in December, last Sunday before Christmas,  then the Australia Day Ultra in January, as well as the new WA Ultra Series which adds in another three ultras. We really are spoilt for choice in Western Australia at the moment.  This is why I realised there must be ultra runners out there who I need to connect with.

I want to feel that mental pain that they gush about when describing their ultra exploits. To this end I have decided to make it more interesting by not changing my training specifically for the 100k race in January. I enjoy my long Sunday runs with the ‘BK posse‘ but 30k is enough even for me. My training for the ADU100K will consist of a good weekly distance but no runs further than 30k, bar the 6 inch ultra on December 18th. No point wasting all that ‘ultra-high’ in training, I want to feel the full monty on race day, probably at 80k when my legs give way?  There’s more of course, it’s not about just finishing the 100k I need to give myself a target time, it is after all a race no matter what distance. 8 hours sounded reasonable until my friend Rob showed me the Australian record for the 50-55 age group (the one I miss by a week) is just shy of 8 hours. No point aiming low then so 8 hours it is. I’ll certainly get to 50k at 8 hour pace, the rest so they say is in the lap of the gods.

 

6 Inch is coming , look busy.
6 Inch is coming , look busy.

Last tear I had entered the ADU100K but dropped down to the 50k after a particularly bad run the week before in the heat when I targeted a long 34k and pulled the pin at halfway. This, in hindsight, was the right thing to do as on the day I ran well enough for a podium finish but would have been in no state to continue for another 50k. I feel this year I am better prepared after a stellar 2016 racing season and hope basic good old fashioned running fitness will get me to the finish line rather than long slow runs to build endurance. Even typing that I can see flaws in my master plan but what would life be without the odd gamble? On the bright side I get to run a long time (and I love running) and also I get to eat a lot of high calorie , high fat ‘tukka’ as well as lots of carbohydrates. How bad can this be? I may even pout on some weight like my mate Jon last year. (who is also competing again more for the food than the glory I feel.)

WA Ultra Race Calander
WA Ultra Race Calendar

So this is the first post in the ultra marathon category and I will use this to document my path to the 6 inch ultra late December and then the Australia Day Ultra late January. It will be an interesting journey and a challenging one but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Heat can be your friend.

In Perth at the moment we are heading towards summer and believe me when I say in Perth we get a summer big time ! Living in what is essentially a desert does have it’s advantages. For nine months of the year I consider the climate to be just about perfect for running. A reasonable temperature with little humidity and even less rain. When it does rain it feels like a warm shower compared to the horizontal ‘take out your eyes’ sleet I use to experience in the Scottish summers I came from. (Apparently it’s worse in winter but I never found out as it was too dark , too cold and too damn dangerous to ever wonder outside.)  When Summer does arrive you can still run in good conditions you just need to adjust your day. You need to awake at first light and race the sunrise before the Perth sauna is turned on and anyone found outside understands what it feels like to be cooked in a microwave. If you’re lucky you may get a reprieve in the late evening but when summer comes a calling you may only get that small pre-sunrise window of opportunity.

Runners though like to run and not be dictated to by temperature or season, thus sometimes they just put on the trainers regardless and brave the elements; after first bathing in suntan crème. When you are faced with anything over 30c it’s time to rethink your run. Pace needs to go out the window and in comes survival and damage limitation. Believe me I’ve been there when you’re halfway through a 10k loop and suddenly realise you’re dehydrated and the body has had enough. It’s not pleasant and it always happens when you are at your furthest from any help. (Funny that?)  It’s at times like these you need to just knuckle down and plough on, albeit slowly with walk breaks if needed. The most important thing is getting back to the start in one piece without doing to much damage, both mentally and physically.

So what’s the answer ? Running in the heat can improve your running and even make you stronger but there are certain aspects of your run that need to be adapted.  As well as running slower you must also be fully hydrated, common sense I know but still worth highlighting. This hydration process is also best started the day before the run and continued up to the run and while running, and of course afterwards. Basically drink, a lot ! I would also recommend electrolytes rather than just water , it all helps.

For me in Perth at the moment I’m out the door and running by 4:50am and although that may sound early the rewards so outweigh the early start. I get to see the sunrise every morning and also enjoy the solitude of the early morning. Everything is so much quieter and you really can bask in the new dawn. The downside of course is after I put my nine year old to bed I scuttle off to my bed myself to eagerly awake my alarm informing me I get to race the sunrise again . My Wife , who luckily is a night owl, gets her ‘Karen time’ so all is good in the Matthews household. (Spending too much time with my Wife always put a strain on the marriage. That was a joke by the way.!)  So for summer move your waking day to the left and rise early, enjoy the morning before sneaking off to bed while most people are sitting down wasting their lives watching rubbish on TV and eating ‘crap’. You know it makes sense, I’ll see you out there.

Footnote. I took my own advice for a change and rather than put myself through the sauna that is lunch time running I waited until the evening and ran a pleasant 10k racing the sunset, after racing the sunrise this morning. Both glorious runs for different reasons and so much more pleasant than a lunch time run when I would have been battling the higher temperatures and returning to work looking I’d been swimming while wearing my work clothes. So, as pointed out in the articles below, you just need to choose your time wisely when it comes to running in heat, best to avoid it really but if it is unavoidable make the best of it. 

 

I have found two great articles below that explain how running in the heat can help to improve ones running and with the right tweaks can also be as enjoyable as running in normal conditions.

 

 

One of the highest sweat rates ever recorded was that of marathon runner Alberto Salazar at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In the months leading up to the games, which were expected to be oppressively hot, the marathoner was put through a regimen of temperature acclimation training with the goal of helping him adapt to running in the heat. While Salazar placed only 15th overall, the program was deemed a success, physiologically speaking—vitals taken after the race found that Salazar’s hormonal and thermoregulatory systems were completely normal. His body had compensated by causing him to sweat at an incredibly high rate—about three liters per hour, compared to the roughly one liter per hour for an average human.

Researchers have been looking at the effects of heat on athletic performance for decades, and their results have been consistently surprising. Studies have found that, in addition to an increased rate of perspiration, training in the heat can increase an athlete’s blood plasma volume (which leads to better cardiovascular fitness), reduce overall core temperature, reduce blood lactate, increase skeletal muscle force, and, counterintuitively, make a person train better in cold temperatures. In fact, heat acclimation may actually be more beneficial than altitude training in eliciting positive physiological adaptations, says Santiago Lorenzo, a professor of physiology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and a former decathlete at the University of Oregon. “Heat acclimation provides more substantial environmental specific improvements in aerobic performance than altitude acclimation,” he says. And in contrast to the live low, train high philosophy, we more quickly adapt to heat stress than we do to hypoxia. In other words, heat training not only does a better job at increasing V02 max than altitude, but it also makes athletes better at withstanding a wider range of temperatures.

Athletes can adapt to heat in one of two ways. The first is through incremental improvements in tolerance over time—work out in the heat a little bit every day, and eventually your body will dissipate heat more effectively. The second way is through thermotolerance, which is a cellular adaptation to an extreme heat experience, like suffering such severe dehydration after a run that you need an IV. Essentially, if you shock your system, your body will be able to withstand greater temperature stresses later on. But successful heat adaptation is difficult—and clearly dangerous—to achieve outside of controlled settings. Lorenzo explains that performance gains are possible only when athletes elevate their core body temperature, and without careful monitoring, it’s possible to elevate your core temperature to lethal levels.

When performed safely, however, heat training can have extraordinary effects. This phenomena fascinates Chris Minson, a professor of human physiology at the University of Oregon, who studies heat acclimation responses in athletes. According to his research, heat training can expand blood plasma volume, but Minson says there also seem to be inexplicable changes to the heart’s left ventricle, which helps to increase oxygen delivery to the muscles. In addition, he says that athletes who train in warm temperatures generally get better at regulating heat by sweating earlier, as Salazar did, or developing a colder resting body temperature.

A 2011 study by a group of researchers in New Zealand also found that overall volume of blood plasma increased at a greater rate when athletes did not drink water during exercise. While some coaches are carefully experimenting with dehydration, Minson and Lorenzo are not because it adds too much additional stress. However, they do say that this type of training can be beneficial because it produces a higher number of “heat shock” protein cells.

Ahead of Western States this June, ultrarunning coach Jason Koop worked on heat training with Amanda Basham and eventual winner Kaci Leckteig. Koop believes this type of acclimating is a good example of blending an academic concept with real-world training. But, says Koop, “at a certain level, you have to compromise training quality for the heat acclimation. Acclimating to the heat is additional stress [on the body], just like more miles or intervals, so you can’t simply pile it on. Something on the training side has to give.”

One method of heat acclimation that Minson uses with his athletes is to do hard workouts on colder days or earlier in the morning, and then start training in hotter conditions with less intensity. He is also looking into adding heat in ways that wouldn’t require an athlete to train in high temperatures at all—using hot tubs, for instance.

All this being said, not everyone responds to heat at the same rate or with the same physiological gains, which makes it similar to altitude training in that it might make a high-performing age grouper, college athlete, or elite a little better, but it won’t compensate for intelligent, consistent training.

How to Incorporate Heat Acclimation into Your Training Schedule

When acclimating to heat, you’ll be forced to compromise training quality, says Koop. While he understands the benefits of heat acclimation, he still prioritizes smart, solid training. But if you want to incorporate heat into your workouts, here’s how he recommends doing it safely.

  1. First, pick a protocol (sauna, hot bath, or exercising in the heat) that minimizes the impact on training, both physically and logistically.

  2. Koop most commonly recommends that his athletes use a dry sauna immediately after running. “It doesn’t impact training nearly as much as running in the heat, and the effects are similarly positive,” he says. He often tells his athletes to not drink water during these sessions to enhance the effect. Koop recommends spending 20-to-30-minutes in the sauna, depending on tolerance.

  3. Koop says that when he has his athletes exercise in the heat—either naturally or by wearing extra clothing to simulate the experience—it will be on a long, slow day for 60 to 90 minutes. The time completely depends on the athlete’s tolerance and previous experience. But he stresses to not do this on a recovery day, because heat training is an added stress on the body. Koop recommends drinking 30 to 40 ounces of an electrolyte drink per hour during these sessions  And for safety, he advises using low-traffic sidewalks and bike paths—not trails.

  4. Despite the benefits of heat training, Koop reminds his athletes that running in the heat is extremely difficult and usually replaces a hard day. “You are substituting one potential gain for another one,” he says. In other words, use it carefully

 

One more article , this time by Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Training. ( http://strengthrunning.com/about/ ) A great read.

Summer training ain’t easy. With skyrocketing temperatures, high humidity, and scorching sun it can feel like it’s impossible to get in a good run.

A long run or fast workout is hard enough. What about a RACE? Like a friend of mine always says: In the heat, I don’t compete!

Even if you just run easy and skip the hard workouts, how are you even supposed to just feel good when running in the heat and humidity of summer?

In the last few weeks, the runners I coach have said some funny things about running in the heat. My favorite:

“I just got back from my 8-miler, and it was BRUTAL. I couldn’t do the workout… my body just isn’t ready for 90 degrees “feels like 95” at 6pm. I just tried to repeat to myself “I LOVE SUMMER!” while also being glad I wasn’t jumping over piles of snow.”

Training well through the heat and humidity of summer takes a careful approach that combines timing, gear, and an understanding of why exactly it’s so damn hard to run in the heat in the first place.

But of course, it will still be tough. A few weeks ago at the Heartbreak Hill Festival put on by Runner’s World, I was talking to another runner about a race she ran in Miami. She was lucky to meet Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan (two pro distance runners), who told her: “I’ll take running at altitude over running in Miami any day!

Even the pros hate summer running!

Instead of complaining about how difficult it is to run in the heat, let’s see how we can make the best of it. And maybe even make the fall our fastest season yet.

Why is it So Hard to Run in the Heat?

If you’ve read Christopher McDougall’s fantastic book Born to Run, you’ll remember that humans are amazing endurance animals for a host of reasons. We have:

A huge Achilles tendon that produces a significant energy return while running.

A (mostly) hairless body and highly evolved sweat system

Big butts. I cannot lie: according to Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman, our glutes are “running muscles”

A special ligament that attaches the spine to the skull and keeps our head from bobbing as we run

Can you guess which adaptation here is impacted by running in the summer? It’s our incredible sweat system.

Perspiration helps cool us off because as our sweat evaporates from your skin, it takes heat with it. But when humidity rises, it reduces your body’s evaporation rate because there’s already so much water in the air. Soon, you feel overheated and have to slow down.

If you live in an arid place like Colorado where the humidity is low, a hot summer day can still wreak havoc on your training for two important reasons.

First, the dry air evaporates sweat from your body almost as quickly as you’re producing it so you can become dehydrated much more quickly. If you start a run slightly dehydrated or run long without any fluids, your performance will significantly decrease (and you’ll feel like death).

As you become more and more dehydrated throughout a run, your heart needs to work harder to pump your blood because it’s becoming thicker (among a few other reasons too). This is called cardiac drift: your heart rate increases over the course of a run even when the intensity stays the same.

Let’s not also forget the heat and sun, both of which increase your core body temperature. As soon as you start getting too warm, running will feel much more difficult. Your “Rate of Perceived Exertion” (RPE) will increase even if you’re running a pace that’s usually comfortable.

Less evaporation because of higher humidity levels, increased chance of dehydration, and a higher core body temperature means that you’ll have to run slower to maintain the same effort. An unfortunate reality of summer training.

The Dangers of Running in the Heat

This article isn’t meant to scare you. After nearly 16 years of competitive racing and running in the heat and humidity of New England and the mid-Atlantic states, I’ve never been seriously affected by the heat in any meaningful way. Neither has any of my teammates in college and high school – and we raced and ran very tough workouts in brutal temperatures sometimes.

But that doesn’t mean the dangers aren’t real. If you run too hard at noon in July, you might experience some type of heat illness. Here’s what you need to know so you can avoid these setbacks.

Heat Cramps: muscle spasms that are caused by large fluid and electrolyte losses from sweating. They can occur while exercising but also hours after your run. No need to worry, they’re not serious – but make sure you stay hydrated and get enough electrolytes with sports drinks or fruit like bananas.

Severe dehydration: we’re all familiar with dehydration. Up to a 4% loss in fluid levels from exercise is still safe, but any more than that and you may experience dizziness, fatigue, and even mental disorientation.

Prevent this level of dehydration by starting your run already hydrated (your pee should be a straw color) and replacing your lost fluids as soon as you finish running. You can figure out exactly how much fluid you’ve lost by weighing yourself before and after a hot run.

Heat Exhaustion: if you work out too hard in the heat, you may come down with heat exhaustion – a case of dehydration, headache, nausea, and a core body temperature of up to 104 degrees. It’s much more common in runners who aren’t adapted to the heat.

If you think you have heat exhaustion, stop running, get out of the sun, and cool down with a cold drink and preferably air conditioning. And next time, run earlier in the day!

Heat Stroke: Danger! Heat stroke is very serious since your core body temperature is probably over 105 degrees. Symptoms include disorientation with clumsiness, confusion, poor balance, and a lack of sweating. Immediate medical attention is required where you’ll be cooled with a cold bath, air conditioning, and cold liquids.

At the 1978 Falmouth Road Race, Alberto Salazar (two-time winner of the NYC Marathon) suffered heat stroke and collapsed at the finish line after fading to the 10th place. He was rushed to the hospital with a temperature of 107 (!) degrees and read his last rites in a tub of ice water. He recovered and went on to become one of the greatest coaches our sport has ever seen.

7 Tips to Beat the Heat

The heat of summer isn’t the time to run your hardest workout and biggest mileage weeks – unless you’re super careful.

Run by effort, not pace. Running in the heat is the perfect opportunity to work on the skill of running by feel. Instead of strictly following pace targets that you might normally follow, run by time and effort rather than distance and pace.

Run early. There’s no perfect time to run in the heat of summer. But the early morning hours offer the lowest temperatures and a break from the strongest hours of sunlight (even though the humidity will be at its highest).

Get off the roads! Asphalt and concrete absorb heat and radiate it back onto your poor, wilting body. The summer months are a good time to try more trail running. Bonus: you have to run a little slower on trails which will keep you slightly cooler and trails are usually shaded. Win-win.

Adjust your expectations. If the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory (when the Heat Index, a score that reflects a combination of both heat and humidity, is over 105 degrees) running fast or long will be difficult and dangerous.

Even if there’s no heat advisory, remember why it’s so hard to run like you normally do in summer weather. Maintain the same effort and don’t sweat the slower paces (see what I did there?).

Don’t wear dark colors or cotton. Gear matters in extreme conditions so dress appropriately! Synthetic fabric like polyester is used in most running gear these days – use it.

Start your run hydrated (and keep hydrating). Even though hydration has been overemphasized in the last decade (see Waterlogged by Dr. Tim Noakes), it’s important to hydrate well before and after your run. Unless you’re running more than 75-90 minutes, you probably don’t need to take any water with you. But learn what works for you.

Plan your run around water. I never carry any fluid with me on a run – even a 20 miler in the summer. Instead, I run by fountains in public parks where I can swig some water and stay hydrated. If you live in a dry climate, running through sprinklers can help you stay cool, too. And who doesn’t love frolicking through a sprinkler?

Running in the Heat Has Its Advantages!

With all the whining we do about summer training, it actually makes you a better runner. Running in the heat causes our body to acclimatize to the conditions and adapt:

Your body gets better at sending blood from your core to your skin, helping to dissipate heat

With all that blood rushing to your skin, your muscles now get less oxygenated blood. So to compensate, your body produces more (who needs blood doping?!)

The body learns to control its core temperature and it won’t increase as much after you’ve acclimatized

You start sweating sooner at a lower body temperature to improve the cooling process

Sweat contains less salt so you maintain the right electrolyte balance

All these adaptations improve your efficiency and make you ready to run even faster as soon as the heat and humidity drop in the fall. So embrace the heat and run through it!

Then again, there’s some evidence that suggests that summer training is difficult because you think it will be difficult.

Yeah, tell me that after I shuffle home from a track workout in the sun and I might throw you out of my living room window.

But, it’s useful to know that at least some of the drudgery of running in the heat is because of our brain. It may present a good opportunity to “train your brain” to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

When you do, you’ll be in a good position to run a lot faster this fall. Take advantage of the physical AND mental adaptations you’ve gained from a summer of uncomfortable running.

You might just surprise yourself at what you’re able to run in a few months

Summer running , it can be positive.
Summer running , it can be positive.

 

 

 

It’s all about weight, unfortunately.

I have mentioned weight in relation to running a few times on this blog but with all good subjects there is always another good article to highlight. It really is common sense that the lighter you are the faster you will run with the same amount of energy. My Dad use to always sprout ‘It’s Physics Son‘ at me on so many occasions over the years for numerous different scenarios, in this scenario it really is.

So to improve with the same amount of training all you need to do is put down that donut (Jon !) and pick up that lovely celery stick, Yum ! Hang on, to quote Homer Simpson ‘Donuts taste good‘ and I agree with Mr.Simpson whole heartedly but to work off a donut it’s about 30 minutes of moderate exercise, and who can stop at one donut which is why you buy Krispy Kremes in boxes of 6 or more. That’s 3 hours of running nearly a marathon for 10 minutes of pleasure. (Would you have to run the 3 hours straight after eating 6 donuts or can you wait, either way I would probably envisage trouble ahead.)

I can certainly testify that at my racing weight of 70kg I am considerably faster than if I let myself go and hit 72kg. You feel the difference and also in training with every step you moving that extra 2kg, remember physics, not a runners friend when he’s been embracing his friend Mr. Kreme.

So the answer is to find your racing weight and stick to it. How easy is that ? Actually not easy at all as your racing weight is always so damn low and to get to it in the first place you normally starve yourself or have to avoid all the food groups you love.  Then when you hit the racing weight you spend all your time worrying about putting weight on. No one said being a runner was easy, we train hard in tough conditions, give up our social life, friends out with running are ignored and even sacrifice family time but to forego the donuts or worse the Yelo muffin, life is cruel.

Is there an answer to the weight conundrum, there may be. Rather than try and maintain your racing weight all year you can train using the periodisation technique. (Is it a technique or just a way of training, you decide?) . Periodisation is the theory and practice of how to vary a training program over time to bring the runner to a physical peak for major competitions. It is considered simply as planned and organized variety. The periodisation variables we can manipulate include frequency, intensity, recovery, variety, specificity, and duration of training. I suggest part of this could also involve Krispy Kreme donuts, though when Arthur Lydiard, first started experimenting with periodization in 1947 I’m not sure he had donuts at the forefront of his mind.?  Anyhow you could define periods of your training when you can add a little weight and enjoy life a tad more than normal before then starving yourself back to your racing weight.

It would be easier of course if we didn’t have a sweet tooth and we could maintain our weight by enjoying the good things in life like cabbage, celery, carrots, swede or my favourite green peas. Not going to happen,  so until they make chocolate calorie free it’s back to my old friend ‘hunger pains’ and the odd Yelo muffin when I can persuade myself that running 100 miles does justify one muffin as it normally contains fruit (mixed in with the chocolate)

Amanda MacMillan wrote this article for Runners World in 2014 but it still holds true today unfortunately. Worth a read but we all know what we should weigh, it’s our decision whether we reach that goal and when we do how long we can hold it for. That is of course until chocolate becomes calorie free then it’s on for young and old…

 

The root of all evil...
The root of all evil…

It may have been a while since you’ve stepped on a scale.

You’re fit, you feel great and you run, a lot. So who cares if your abs aren’t as flat as they used to be? Even if your weight’s not on your radar as a health issue, though, it should be as a performance one. Because there’s a good chance you’re not at your ideal racing weight—that is, the weight at which you run your fastest and feel your best.
Perhaps you have always had the same body and never considered what adding a few pounds of muscle or dropping a few pounds of flab might do for your performance. Alicia Shay, a professional runner and nutrition counselor in Flagstaff, Arizona, says weight shouldn’t be overlooked. “Anyone who cares how fast they’re running should consider their weight part of their overall training strategy,” she says.It’s most common for runners to find their weight has crept up over the years. Pete Magill, author of Build Your Running Body, didn’t think much about his own gradual weight gain until, at 44, his usual 15-minute 5K times began to suffer.“When I ran 16:20, I knew I was in trouble,” Magill says. “I’d been racingat 170 pounds since starting masters competition, almost 10 pounds over my race weight back in my 20s.” He couldn’t train any harder, so he went on a diet and dropped to 164. Over the next few years, he set the American men’s 45–49 record for the 5K, at 14:34.Magill’s not alone. “I can’t imagine you can talk to a competitive runner who doesn’t have a weight-loss-equals-faster-time story,” he says.But getting to that ideal number can be hard work—especially if you’re already logging major mileage and are used to eating whatever you want. And it’s a delicate balance: Dipping below it or losing weight in unhealthy ways could put you at risk for injury, illness and disordered eating behaviors.Why Lighter Equals FasterAs a general rule, runners move most efficiently when they’re at the low end of what’s considered a healthy body mass and body-fat percentage. “Running is really just a form of jumping,” says Matt Fitzgerald, certified sports nutritionist and author of Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance. “You can’t move forward without moving up, and the more you have to lift against gravity, the more energy it requires.” Imagine running with an extra 5 pounds strapped around your waist, he explains.Body weight affects performance in running more than it does in other sports, such as swimming and biking, according to a 2011 Swiss study on Ironman triathletes. And lower body-mass index seems increasingly important as race distances get longer: A 2014 study found that the optimal BMI for male 800m runners was between 20 and 21, while it dropped between 19 and 20 for male 10,000m and marathon runners. (Generalizations about BMI shouldn’t be used prescriptively, Shay says, because it doesn’t take into account lean muscle or body fat.)

There are other reasons lighter means faster: Larger people are less efficient at delivering oxygen throughout the body. Losing weight doesn’t change your lung capacity or function, but it does mean that each breath doesn’t have to go as far.

Leaner athletes can dissipate heat better, too, because they have a higher surface-area-to-body-weight ratio and less insulating fat tissue. They also burn carbohydrates more efficiently. So while weight isn’t everything, it’s certainly a big thing. “Four factors determine how fast you are,” says Sean Wade, a top masters athlete and coach of the Houston-based Kenyan Way running program. “Genetics, form, how hard and smart you train, and your weight—and not necessarily in that order.”

Age Makes a Difference

Masters runners may have the hardest time losing weight—no matter how much they run. Fred Zalokar, 54, averages more than 100 miles a week and for years oscillated between 170 and 180 pounds. But since he cleaned up his diet four years ago, he’s dropped more than 20 pounds, increasing his speed and turnover along the way.

“Weight loss has never just happened for me, even when I was regularly running ultras,” Zalokar says. “If I’m not consciously cutting my calories, I can make up for all that mileage without a second thought.”

That’s because adults begin losing muscle mass in their early 40s, which can impair performance and decrease metabolism, says Emily Brown, RD. Getting enough physical activity (including resistance training to maintain muscle) is especially important, as is cutting back on junk food and oversize food portions.

Tom Storey, 50, who has run Boston seven times, attributes his first qualifying run, in 2007, to weight loss. In just more than a year, he went from 205 to 150 pounds and shaved more than 30 minutes off his previously 4-hour marathon time. Today, maintaining his weight requires sacrifices he’s willing to make. “There aren’t a lot of things I can do to make myself a better athlete,” he says, “but if I can keep my weight down, I know I’ll be faster.”

Crunching the Numbers

Finding your ideal weight—the healthy weight at which you really perform your best—takes some time. “You can’t predict your optimal race weight beforehand,” Fitzgerald says. “You can move toward a goal, and when you have the race of your life, you weigh yourself and get your body composition tested, and there you have it.”

Andrew Lemoncello, 2012 Olympian for the U.K. and a coach for McMillan Running, didn’t find his ideal race weight until going pro after college. “I used to live by the saying, ‘If the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything,’ “ he says. “I ate healthy foods, but I also loved desserts and never paid attention to my portions.”

When he began spending time with other pro runners, Lemoncello realized he needed higher-quality fuel for his furnace to run at its most efficient. He began planning his meals and stopped mindless eating, and he dropped from 150 pounds to 145. “I started setting PRs and had more energy and confidence,” he says. “If I’m eating well and training hard, that’s the weight my body naturally gravitates to.”

For any weight loss or gain, it helps to have something to aim for. Several online calculators, like Fitzgerald’s at RacingWeight.com, will estimate your ideal racing weight based on your age, gender and current fitness level. In this case, ideal is defined as what you would weigh if your body fat was at its lowest attainable-yet-healthy percentage, Fitzgerald explains.

Then there are the stats about how much quicker you’ll be by slimming down, like the commonly cited 2 seconds per mile, per pound you are above your ideal weight. But this will vary from person to person, says exercise physiologist Paul Vanderburgh, creator of the online Flyer Handicap Calculator, which helps runners see how their race times stack up against competitors of other ages and weights. Based on VO2 max estimates, it computes your predicted time if you were 25 years old and a scale model of yourself at 110 pounds for women or 143 pounds for men. “It’s strictly meant for comparisons,” he stresses, “not for figuring out the weight you should realistically be to hit a certain time.”

In Build Your Running Body, Magill and his co-authors plot a chart of estimates based on VO2 calculations—for example, that a 200-pound runner can shave 19 seconds off a 20-minute 5K time by losing 5 pounds. Wade takes a simpler approach: “One minute slower per 1 pound overweight is what I tell my marathoners,” he says.

These tools can be good motivators, according to Rasa Troup, a certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD), a 2008 Olympian and current nutritionist for Team USA Minnesota, but she adds that athletes shouldn’t take them as gospel. “My biggest concern is that they distract runners from listening to and understanding their own bodies, because they’re caught up in reaching some number,” she says. “It’s more important to be aware of how tired hungry or sluggish you are feeling.”

Kimberly Mueller, CSSD, owner of San Diego-based Fuel Factor Nutrition Coaching and a 2:52 marathoner, warns that calculators can skew too low with body-fat goals, as well. “Some have estimated my ideal body composition to fall around 12 percent,” she says, “but I know I lose my menstrual cycle if I fall below 14.”

How Much is Too Much?

Many runners could benefit from shedding a few pounds, Troup admits—but only if they have excess weight to lose and only if it’s done in a way that supplements their training, rather than sabotaging it. “Well-fueled athletes will perform well, and well-fueled means something different for every person,” she says. Of course, losing weight isn’t a good idea for all competitive runners. For those who are naturally very lean or who work hard to stay at the low end of their healthy weight, the threat of falling below that point at which you race your best is real.

Stephanie Bruce learned that the hard way when she finished a disappointing 16th at the 2013 Boston Marathon. She and her husband, pro runner Ben Bruce, have spent years perfecting their race-weight strategies, she says, and weigh themselves daily leading up to a big race.

“We didn’t have a scale in Boston, and it was difficult to get in as many calories the day before as I would have been able to at home,” she says. (Bruce has celiac disease and has to be careful about eating food prepared outside of her own kitchen.) “I was probably under by only 2 or 3 pounds on race morning, but it made a huge impact. I had no power; I just couldn’t hold the pace.”

Bruce says she works hard to maintain a healthy weight and has never dropped so low that her health has suffered. But many runners, without enough calories or nutrients, can develop weak bones and compromised immune systems.

That’s what Brian Rosetti figures happened to him. After he graduated from college, he spent two years training almost full-time. His mileage was increasing, but he was focused on low weight instead of nutrition for performance. Just as he made a breakthrough in his training, and as his weight dropped to an all-time low of 146 on his 6-foot-1 frame, he suffered a sacral stress fracture. “My bone density was below the median level, and I don’t think I was getting the right nutrients,” Rosetti says. “I was focused on keeping as light as I could. That’s a scary place to be.” The injury, in effect, ended his career.

Fitzgerald says impaired performance is usually the first sign that a runner has dipped into dangerous territory. “It’s the canary in the coal mine—your body’s signal that it’s under too much stress.”

For women, a missing menstrual period is also an indication of an unhealthy and unsustainable weight, with potential complications like infertility and osteoporosis. And while it’s less talked about, competitive men can struggle, too. A recent Southern Utah University study found that almost 20 percent of male high school cross country runners were at risk for disordered eating behaviors like bingeing and purging. Some boys expressed a desire to gain body weight to be more attractive, while others wanted to lose it to improve their running.

To keep your weight loss from becoming detrimental, the American Council on Exercise recommends maintaining a BMI that stays at or above the normal weight threshold of 18.5 and a body fat percentage above 14 percent for women and 6 percent for men. Some elites dip below these guidelines, Troup says, but it’s not recommended without careful monitoring.

Fitzgerald also recommends tracking your performance. “If you’re getting skinnier but your times are getting worse, you’ve passed the point of beneficial weight loss,” he says.

And above all else, Shay says, listen to your body and your mind. “If you’re starving all the time or you’re irritable and cranky or you’re bonking on runs, you’re probably being too ambitious and getting too light.”

Timing is Everything

The time to prioritize weight loss is in a four- to nine-week period before you start ramping up your workouts, while you’re building your base. “You can’t maximize fitness gain and weight loss simultaneously,” Fitzgerald says.

Mueller agrees. During a competitive season, athletes shouldn’t restrict themselves by more than 500 calories per day. For those who want to lose only a few pounds, 200 to 300 is even better. Stop restricting calories the week of a big race, she adds, because your body will perform best on a full tank.

Bruce says she goes into her training cycles about 3 to 5 pounds over her racing weight, a product of relaxed eating habits and less exercise during her offseason. “I like to have a reserve to pull from, because once I start working out harder, I lose it pretty easily,” she says.

Lemoncello follows a similar schedule during his training period, gaining 5 to 10 pounds when he’s not racing. “It’s good for my running,” he says. “The break helps me feel energized, and I come back motivated.”

The King is dead, long live the King.

My friend Nic Harman turns 21 today and what better present than a post about reaching your true potential. (Actually Nic would probably prefer hard cash but blogging does not pay the bills….)  I first heard of Nic when he won the inaugural Carine Glades Park run in June 2014 in a time of 16:58, with my mate Steve ‘Twinkle Toes’ McKean second a few seconds behind Nic. Funny thing was Steve reckons he was catching him, if he was that was his one and only chance because now Nic is running over 2 minutes quicker. In-fact a few weeks ago at another local parkrun Nic ran 14.53 for the 5k. That is now seriously rapid. Unfortunately ‘Twinkle Toes’ had his one and only chance to beat young Nic and blew it.

Since 2014 Nic has been working with Raf Baugh, the owner and coach supreme from The Running Centre ( http://www.therunningcentre.com ) and under his tutorage Nic took out the Western Australia State 10k title a few weeks ago setting a blistering time of 30:11 and beating the long term WA Athlete of choice Dr. Roberto Busi into second place by just over 10 seconds. Roberto has been the main man in WA for many years and this was a PB run for him , which considering he turned 40 recently is very impressive.

A new order in WA running?
A new order in WA running?

What I believe has set Nic apart from the many young talented and quick runners out there in WA is his ability to work with a great coach and follow instructions. Raf has big plans for Nic and Nic has an unwavering obedience that allows Raf to mould him to be the runner he believes he can be. Add in a work ethic that is just about as strong as imaginable and you have all the making of a future Australian champion, and then who knows.

As well as being a very talented runner Nic is just about the most humble person I know. Whenever I talk to Nic I always come away thinking that conversation was one sided with Nic listening and offering encouragement at all the right times and actually taking an interest in what I was saying. Maybe I’ll get Nic to spend some time with my Wife (That was a joke by the way…) Funnily enough the most talented runners are normally the most humble while the normal runners start blogs, that may not have come out as I hoped it would. Even I’m confused now and I wrote this paragraph. To sum it up Nic is talented, hard working and humble. These three attributes , together with a good coach, will ensure success. There you go, got there in the end.

So what can we take from Nic’s meteoric rise to eventual superstardom. One of Raf’s favourite quotes is ‘be your best’ and we can all live this manta if we choose to. The early mornings, late evenings, double up days when you’re fatigued or at the end of a threshold when your legs are screaming. These are times when you will be challenged and these are times when you need to step up and  ‘be your best‘ . I’m not suggesting we’ll all ever run as fast as Nic but we can run to the best of our ability and leave nothing in the tank, that is what being your best is all about. Finding your limit and getting to a point where you feel you can’t take one more step, then taking one more step.

How do we measure our goals and set ourselves targets ? Through past experiences and achievable targets. Once we have our targets we then design a training plan to achieve these. This is when a coach can help but if you cannot find one for ,whatever reason, it is up to you to draw upon your experience or from a more experienced running friend. (We all have them.) Then set about putting in the hard yards to achieve your goals and ‘be your best. ‘  Targets can be finishing a certain race, achieving a certain time or just running a certain weekly distance. Each of us sets our own targets and with hard work and determination you will achieve them, who knows maybe next year you’ll be sitting behind Nic Harman running the WA State 10k feeling you have him in your sights, a bit like ‘Twinkle Toes’ in 2014, if you do you better be prepared for a battle……

 

 

 

Running is all about numbers.

This weekend I made a bold decision and stopped running at 29.5k when I got back to the City Beach car park after our long run into the Bold Park hills. It was a conscious effort to take control of my running from the evil that is Strava ( http://www.strava.com ) that has taken hold of many a good runner and turned them into a run recording web junkies. Truth be told I already had 121k banked for the week and knew I was over the 150k weekly total with another 10k planned in the evening to take me over the 161k (100 mile) threshold. So really who was I kidding stopping at 29.5k? It did impress the rest of my running group who ran in ever decreasing circles around the car park to get the extra 500m needed for 30k.

How did this happen ? Social media has a large part to play and these days every run is accompanied by a Strava upload as a minimum and a social media post if the run justifies it. Compare this to when I started running before the Internet and GPS watches (Yep such a time did exist and to tell you the truth it wasn’t that bad. ) when a runner who have to record all their information using a thing called a pen and paper. (To the young followers of my post these things are now defunct and serve no purpose bar to be used a weapons in disposing of zombies and other evil creatures in the mindless video games you spend hours playing. Note. That is the pen, the paper would be used as fuel to set fire to said zombies if the pen failed to do it’s job.)  I’ll put my hand up with most of the running population as an avid Strava addict who has 4 Garmin watches and an iphone to make sure that every kilometre I run is documented and shared. I did try and run without a watch once, on the advice of a ‘friend’ (?) to try and recapture the feeling of that bygone age. I hated it and all the time kept thinking how I was going to record this and document my findings to the world. It is like if a tree falls in a forest does it make a sound, if you run without recording it on Strava did it happen ? Not sure about the tree and forest scenario but for the Stava question the answer is ‘no’, if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen.!

This brings me to the point of this post this morning. We do live in a digital world (this may or may not be a good thing?) but you still need , as backup, a non Strava recording of all your totals. I have attached mine below for the last 8 years and with the table as backup will use these totals to complement my golden rules of running.

7 years of recoding running fun...
8 years of recoding running fun…
  1. Run Further. Add distance, not speed.  As you can see from the table my weekly average has steadily increased year on year with this year being the first I will break the 100k a week average for the year. In 2012 I was injured with a nasty calf knot, that I didn’t treat, which explains the delta compared to the previous year.  2014 my training had plateaued which is why I turned to Raf ( http://www.therunningcentre.com.au ) to train me in 2105 where my distance increased by 10%. I have taken this training forward and will probably increase another 10% this year.  Distance first, everything else comes once the ‘foundation of distance’ has been achieved.
  2. Run Faster. This is about adding pace after you have got your foundation after rule 1. 2011 was a break out year for me after 3-4 years of building a good running base. I had ran 3 Comrades campaigns in 2008-2010 ( http://www.comrades.com ) so my distance foundation was well and truly complete. In 2011 every time I put on a bib I was confident of a pb.  It was a wonderful year. Unfortunately in 2012 I had a nasty injury which set me back but towards the end of the year I was able to train consistently again and in 2013 I was again rewarded with a magical year of running.  
  3. Don’t get injured. This is the hardest rule to obey as you always want to do more of rule 1 and 2 which can result in an injury. (I even hate typing the word!) In 2012 I succumbed to a calf knot which took me out for over a month. I struggled to recover from this and as you can see from the table I only ran 3 pb’s for the year compared to 13 the previous year and 10 the following year when I recovered. If this doesn’t back up this rule nothing does.! Don’t get injured, so easy to type but in reality one of the hardest thing for a runner to do, period.
  4. Nutrition, nutrition and nutrition… Did I mention nutrition. It’s all about the proper fuel. So underestimated by so many runners. The number of times I hear the old ‘I run xxx kilometres a week so I can eat what I want’ . Not true, imagine putting low grade fuel in a Porsche, eventually the head gasket blows and you are faced with a serious bill, not to mention a misfiring engine. The human body is a finely tuned machine and should be treated as such, we all know what is good food and what is bad (normally the nice tasting stuff!), avoid the bad and put in the good, easy really. (bar the odd Yelo muffin of course, we are after all only human.)  I’ll be exploring nutrition more next year when I have one more go at a sub 2hr 40minutes marathon.
  5. Weight. So important, use to believe because I ran 100k+ a week I could eat what I wanted. Not true. This is another golden rule so often ignored. Runners can run so much faster is they hit their racing weight rather than a running weight. My go to man , Matt Fitzgerald, when it comes to everything running even has a website dedicated to this. ( http://www.racingweight.com/ ) If Matt has a website dedicated to this subject it must be important.
  6. Baseline, document and evaluate everything. If it isn’t on www.strava.com it didn’t happen. Once you set a goal you have to be able to know how far you have come to achieving this, small steps but constant feedback. So buy a Garmin and start recording , everything !!! Contentious subject here. I’m a Strava addict and I know it but the purest will be horrified. You need a baseline to see improvement, set new goals and realize your goals. Buy a Garmin and to quote a small clothing company ‘just do it’.
  7. Sleep. So underestimated but the bodies way of refuelling and preparing for the next day of running. Common sense but so often ignored. Sometimes the most obvious, common sense tips are the ones ignored. Sleep is when your body repairs itself, the more sleep the more repairs can be completed. It really is that easy, go to bed and dream about running.
  8. Consistency. No point running 100k one week and then nothing. Marathon fitness is built up over time and this works hand in hand with rule number 1. I feel the figures from my running log back this up. I’ve steadily increased the duration consistently year in, year out (bar injury) and have reaped the rewards with 2016 being my fastest year yet as I move towards my fifth sixth decade. (Thanks Dave Kennedy) Running is all about getting out there on a regular basis again and again and again. Time on feet initially and then add pace before targeting certain distance with different run types, most important thinkg to note though is always consistently putting on the trainers and just running. ‘If you build it they will come’ type approach, keep running, build the foundation and the personal records will come. (This also works for baseball pitches apparently.)
  9. It’s all in the mind. After 32k a marathon is down to mental strength and the ability to persuade your body you can still perform at your desired pace without falling to fatigue, which is the minds way of protecting itself. Never underestimate the power of the mind in long distance racing. Finally another massive part of running, the Noakes ‘central governor’. I’ve talked about this at length in various posts on this site. With experience I believe I can mentally finish a marathon stronger now then when I first started. I know what to expect and to this end can persuade my old friend fatigue to stay away for longer allowing me to achieve better finishing times. The mind is such an important part of running and needs to be trained as much as the body. When you race a marathon you will spend time in the ‘pain box’, the runner who can spend the most time in this little box of joy, before opening the door and embracing the old enemy fatigue, will run the fastest. I spoke to Steve Moneghetti after the Perth Marathon this year after he ran the 3hr30min bus and asked him how the professional athletes are so much faster than us recreational runners. His answer surprised me as he replied that a professional runner can stand more pain and this gives them the advantage need to push through and achieve the faster times. Again turning off the ‘central governor’  and spending more time in the ‘pain box’ avoiding fatigue and thus not slowing down. Common sense really, thanks Steve.

 

Steve Moneghetti enjoying time out of the 'pain box'.
Steve Moneghetti enjoying time out of the ‘pain box’.

 

The Long Run really is all about time on legs, slow down.

Tomorrow is my Sunday morning long runs with the BK Posse. Have a 30k time on legs booked in with some hills as we train for the 6 inch ultra in a few weeks. ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com ) I posted on this topic before but I thought it would be a good time to yet again talk about the long run being slow and steady. As you will know by now I’m a big advocate of the 80/20 rule. (80% slow and steady and 20% fast; it’s normally around 90-10 at the moment as I’m building endurance.) Also this article pushes the importance of distance which I am a really big believer in. Golden rule number one is distance first, then move onto pace. The longer you can run, without risking injury, the better, I do not believe there is such a thing as junk miles, if you are running you are improving, end of story.

To this end the obligatory weekend long run is so important because it is all about time of feet and building stamina rather than putting strain on the body by selecting the wrong gear and going out too fast or maintaining a pace not conducive to what a long run is really about. Of course the long run will mean different things at different times in your training. In the building phase it really is time on feet only where as when you enter the final phase of your marathon training you can add some marathon pace kilometres within the run, or even the old finish at marathon pace for the last 5k, one of my favourite endings.

 

Sarah Russel from Runners Connect wrote this great article explaining the long run and more importantly how so many runners just get it wrong,

 

Are You Sabotaging Your Long Run by Running the Wrong Pace?

The underlying principle of any training program, regardless of your goal or ability, should be the development of a solid aerobic base.
It’s the fundamental structure followed by almost every elite runner, in particular that of Kenyan athletes who spend around 85% of their time running at an ‘easy’ or ‘recovery’ pace.
Mo Farah reportedly runs around 120 miles per week, of which 80% at an easy pace. No doubt he and Galen Rupp are having a good old chat as they run up and down the hills in Boulder. Not the picture of hard elite training that you might imagine? Well, we can all learn from their approach.
Yet this is what most recreational runners get wrong. Running ‘easy’ doesn’t feel right (or hard enough), so they intuitively run at a ‘moderate’ pace, kidding themselves they’re running easy. Struggling to hold a conversation, a heavy sweat, and red face post run is a giveaway that you did not run ‘easy’!

Running at an easy pace – and by that I mean well into the aerobic zone around 70% of your maximum heart rate – is actually quite hard to do.

You have to slow down A LOT and it feels like you’re going nowhere. But it’s important to stick with it.
In time (usually just a few weeks), your body will adapt, your pace will quicken (for the same effort level) and you’ll have developed a super efficient fat burning engine. So, stick with me here…this is the bedrock of your future training.
The long run can be a daunting part of training for a longer race, but if you follow the elite approach to easy running, you will be race ready in no time.

Why running easy works

When I work with my beginner runners, we just focus on gradually increasing the length of time they can run for, and build up consistency of training – it’s simple and it works.
This is not the time to think about speed and pace, it is best to just get used to comfortable running where your body can adapt, stay healthy, and develop an efficient running rhythm.
Too many training plans out there have you doing speed intervals, tempo runs, and hills when you are just not ready. Of course it’s important to include a little of this ‘high end’ work, but a solid aerobic base is the fundamental foundation on which you’ll build everything else.
Regular aerobic training will train your body to utilize oxygen, preserve glycogen stores by using fat for fuel, and generally become more efficient.
However, I estimate that at least 75% of runners – of all abilities – run too fast too often, and end up in the ‘mid zone’; training neither the aerobic or anaerobic systems correctly.
Many coaches, myself included, recommend an overall balance of hard/easy training (whilst avoiding the moderate zone), a method now becoming known as ‘polarized training’. The avoidance of ‘moderate’ training is the key, and runners focus on ‘easy’ paced running for the majority of time, with a sprinkling of really hard work (where you really can’t chat!) mixed in for approx 20% of the weekly mileage.
Not only do you train a more efficient fat burning body, but the benefits mean you recover faster, and can therefore put in some harder efforts, rather than being chronically fatigued from ‘mid zone’ running’

Recent research from Dr Stephen Seiler et al from the University of Agdar, Norway, backs up this methodology; finding that high volume, low intensity training stimulates greater training effects for recreational runners, in particular when using the 80/20 split of easy/hard training.
A conclusion backed up by the 2014 Salzburg study published in the Frontiers of Physiology, found that the concept of ‘polarized’ training demonstrated the greatest improvements.
After a 9 week training period, runners using the 80/20 easy/hard split had improved their ‘time to exhaustion’ by a whopping 17.4% and change in peak speed by 5.1%.

This group had completed 68% of their training in the low intensity zone, and 24% at high intensity, with only 6% in the ‘moderate’ zone.
So what does that mean for you? How do you put this into practice?
In a world of high intensity training fads, advice to slow down might seem counterintuitive, but it works The key to running further, and ultimately faster is to slow down, especially for your long runs. Easy to say, but harder to do. If you take only one thing away from this article, it’s this – faster is NOT always better.
When you first start out running, you’re likely to have one pace. As you get more experienced and your fitness improves, you will need to develop a wider range of paces. Your long run or easy pace may be 90 seconds – three minutes slower than your ‘top end’ pace.
US Marathon Champion Esther Erb likes to make sure she takes her easy running seriously, “I see hard recovery runs as an indicator of insecurity. When it comes to recovery, it takes more confidence to run slowly than it does to run fast”. Erb runs the majority of her easy runs between 8:00 and 9:00 per mile! Although that pace may seem fast, keep in mind that her race pace is around 5:45 per mile!
This is the key to building up your long run. Simply slow down – to a walk if you need to – spend more time on your feet and just extend the time/distance bit by bit.

How slow?
Using heart rate as a guide
But how slow is slow? If you want to be scientific about it, you can work out your heart rate training zones and try to keep your pulse at around 70% of your max. If you want to go down this route then use the following calculations:
1. Calculate your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR):
Women: 209 – (0.9 x age) = MHR
Men: 214 – (0.8 x age) = MHR
2. Calculate your Working Heart Rate (WHR) by subtracting your resting pulse (RHR)- measure as soon as you wake up in the morning (while still in bed) from your MRH.
MHR – RHR = WHR
3. Calculate 70% of WHR (0.7 x WHR) and add to your RHR. That should give you your 70% zone HR. This is where the bulk of your running, including your long run, should be. For the vast majority of people it will be around 130-140bpm.
You can also use our training zones calculator to assist you with this.
To work out your ‘top end’ zone, do the same but calculate 85%.
Using pace as your guide
If you don’t like heart rate (we don’t 🙂, then you can use pace as your guide.
Your optimal long run pace is between 55 and 75 percent of your 5k pace, with the average pace being about 65 percent.
From research, we also know that running faster than 75% of your 5k pace on your long run doesn’t provide a lot of additional physiological benefit. Therefore, pushing the pace beyond 75% of 5k pace only serves to make you more tired and hamper recovery.
In fact, the research indicates that it would be just as advantageous to run slower as it would be to run faster. 50-55 percent of 5k pace is pretty easy, but the research clearly demonstrates that it still provides near optimal physiological benefits.

Additional Notes about Easy Long Runs
If you do not use a heart rate monitor, run at a comfortable pace where you can chat easily, without gasping for breath. If you can hear yourself breathing, you’re going too fast. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being super hard) you’ll be around a 5. It should feel really comfortable and the sort of pace you keep going at that pace for hours.
Forget about measuring your ‘pace’ and distance on your GPS watch at this stage. Focusing too much on your watch will only lead to you push on too fast, and undo all your good work.
Learn to run to ‘feel’ rather than keeping to a pace. Don’t forget, that ‘feel’ should be easy. Walk up hills, keep it steady and don’t put any pressure on yourself other than to go a little further.
Run with a friend (find one slower than you normally), have a nice chat, and check out the views. It might take a bit of time to get your head around it, but this is exactly the methodology that will take you to the next level.

Those long easy runs – through the countryside or on the trails, with your partner or running buddy – are to be treasured. Use the time to catch up with your spouse or kids, explore new routes and revel in the joy of going long. There’s nothing else like it.

 

 

Where are your best days ? Depends on which way you are looking.

I was reflecting on my up coming 50th birthday today and discussing with my ‘pod buddies’ at work  whether my best days were ahead of me or behind me. My colleague Rob then added “it depended on which way you were looking.”  This really struck a cord with me and on my lunchtime 17k around the bridges (which in a Perth spring was a wondrous run.) I digested his comment. Rob had summed up why, as runners, we do what we do. Each of us ,I believe , through running, is looking forward and sees their best days ahead of them whereas the general public, when they age, turns around and sees their best days behind them. This is a powerful vision and it certainly made my 17k run disappear in the blink of an eye as I devoured Rob’s  insight.

Rob has totally encapsulated what makes us runners tick as we age. I have been lucky enough by putting in the extra hard yards and following my ‘Golden Rules’ (Remember those, if not there is a category for them on this blog) to be able to lay down some running times I thought beyond me. By looking forward to my best days I was achieving goals that seemed impossible a few years ago. Changing my training with the help of Raf from the Running Centre in 2015 ( http://therunningcentre.com.au/ ) had laid the foundation for 2016 and hopefully beyond. As Raf always use to say to me ‘age is just a number’. At the time my confidence was low and I took this onboard but didn’t really believe it totally. Now I am more convinced. I understand that eventually ‘Father Time’ will come calling and start to eat away at my times and I will be dragged kicking and screaming back to the pack , but with good training and hard work I will try my best to make it a slow transition.

 

TRC The Running Centre, Perth. WA
TRC The Running Centre, Perth. WA

As we age, as runners, I believe we have opportunities to achieve our ‘best days’. These may be by just working harder and smarter (by following my blog for example)  or getting a qualified coach from an awesome running centre (see above) to give you new training ideas. Nutrition is another area I believe we can all probably improve on and I will be making a big effort next year as I give a sub 2:40 marathon time one more tilt in my 50th year on this wonderful planet.  Also as we age I believe we are better equipped to handle the longer distances as marathons and ultra-marathons become more manageable.  Ultra marathons also take away the need for pace and concentrate more on distance, another opportunity to shine as I also believe as we age we have a higher pain threshold. (This may have something to do with bringing up kids (in my case three wonderful Daughters)  and all the challenges this presents, bless ’em ! )

So when it comes to your best days look forward, do not turn around and look behind you, there’s nothing there worth looking at…….

 

 

 

 

Progressive running, a run you need in your training plan.

As I was let down by my training partner this morning (For the second time in 2 weeks !, for a fitness coach my friend, who shall rename nameless , Mark Lee doesn’t half get a lot of colds.?) I decided to still leave from my favourite cafe, Yelo, so when I returned in an hours time it would be just opening and I could reward myself with a muffin coffee combo before scurrying off to work. Setting off towards City Beach I was enjoying the views of an early morning Perth spring morning, see below. Ok I may have put on a filter to boost the colours (as is the way on social media these days.) but it was pretty inspiring, albeit alone.

Trigg on a Perth spring morning.
Trigg on a Perth spring morning.

While initially dawdling along towards City Beach I did start to feel a little guilty knowing what I was going to reward myself with at the end of the run . (photo attached at the end of this post) To this end I thought I’d better at least run for a full hour and also make 14k. I was also wary of running the marathon less than 2 weeks ago so had to make sure I didn’t get too excited as the second week of recovery is the dangerous time when runners think all is good and step up too early.  I put that last bit in italics for a reason, it needs to be digested and understood. Take it easy for 2 weeks, not just the first week post marathon.

So while I was dawdling along I concluded the best type of run for the occasion would be a progressive. As the names suggest you get progressively quicker each kilometre with the last few being the fastest. This has many benefits as I feel it allows you to warm up first and also you gradually increase the pace rather than shock the legs by hitting the turbo button with little warning. This to me is a lot easier on the legs compared to a threshold or tempo where you can find yourself running quickly on cold legs, a recipe for disaster.  Another good point is you can start as slow as you like, I’d even encourage you to start real slow as it makes the progressive pace increase easier. No point exploding out of the blocks on a progressive run as it makes the whole experience null and void when you start to progress the wrong way half way through your session.

This morning I was perfectly primed for a good progressive and managed to gradually increase the pace each kilometre ,  the pace of course quickened after the turn around as I was heading back to my favourite cafe in the whole world with the best muffin combo on this planet. (And probably the solar system , though this is my opinion and cannot be substantiated.)  I didn’t kill myself as I was wary of my two week rule (post marathon) so finished relatively fresh which allowed me to skip up the stairs to Yelo and claim my reward.

It seems I am not the only advocate of progressive running as Greg McMillan has written a great article also highlighting its benefits. He agrees with my points about being easier on the legs due to the slow start but also gives you 3 options and explains more about the stamina benefits. Personally I have only ran the increase pace each kilometre progressive but must admit to a few fast finishes as I’ve chased the young whip-snapper the T-train at the end of a long run, got to keep these young fella’s honest. The marathon pace finish to a long run is another favourite of mine but I’ll leave that to another post.

 

Greg McMillan wrote a great article on progressive running which is worth a read.

 

START SLOW – FINISH FAST: HOW THREE TYPES OF PROGRESSION RUNS BOOST YOUR FITNESS

Over the last few years, my athletes have benefited greatly from workouts called progression runs. In a progression run, you begin running at a slow, easy pace but finish at a fast pace. Not only will you find progression runs to be fun, but they are a great way to boost your fitness without any lasting fatigue. And, the benefits are the same no matter if you’re a 2:15 or a 4:15 marathoner.

Three Types of Progression Runs

While the idea of the progression run is simple – start slower, finish faster, I recommend that you begin with structured progression runs until you learn how to properly gauge your effort throughout the run. Below are the three structured progression runs that I have used successfully.

1) Thirds

The first type of progression run is called Thirds. As the name implies, you break your run into three equal parts or thirds. For the first third, you run at a relatively slow, comfortable pace. As you progress to the second third of the run, your pace will have gradually increased to your normal steady running pace. Over the last third of the run, you increase your speed so that you’re running a strong, comfortably hard pace. For many competitive runners this effort corresponds to somewhere around marathon race pace to as fast as half-marathon race pace and a heart rate between 80 and 90% of maximum. This strong running significantly improves your Stamina which raises the pace you can run before you begin to rapidly accumulate lactic acid.

For your first thirds progression run, choose a 45-minute easy run. Run the first 15 minutes slowly, the second 15 minutes at your normal pace and finish the last 15 minutes at a strong pace. While I break the run into thirds, your pace doesn’t radically change after each third. Instead, it is a gradual but steady increase across the run. After getting your feet wet with this first thirds run, you can adapt the concept to any duration/distance.

It’s important to note that the pace of the final third is NOT all-out running. An appropriate pace for the last third is approximately Steady State or Tempo pace.* Could you run faster at the end? Of course! But that’s not the goal of this particular progression run. In fact, if you run too hard in the last third, the workout becomes more like a race, which causes too much fatigue for the purposes of a progression run.

It’s likely that on some of your runs, you already do a thirds progression run without even trying. When you are fully recovered from previous workouts, the body seems to just naturally progress to a faster pace as the run goes along. And please note that I suggest you do this on an ‘easy run’ day not a ‘recovery run’ day.** For all but a select few elite athletes, progression runs should not be used on days when you are recovering from a previous workout or race.

Lastly, I find a thirds progression run to be an especially beneficial workout for experienced marathon runners – runners who can handle an additional up-tempo day in addition to their other key workouts and long run. The most important caveat, however, is that you must not push too hard in the last third. Strive for a medium-hard pace (around your Steady State Pace).

2) DUSA

The second type of progression run I call DUSA – after the Discovery USA program where we did a lot of this type of running. To perform a DUSA progression run, run for 75-90% of your total run at a steady, easy pace. Then, as you approach the final 15-25% of the run, you really pick up the pace. For competitive runners this means half-marathon to 10K race pace with a fast finish the last quarter mile. It’s exhilarating! You can then jog or walk for five minutes to cool-down. DUSA’s are not a race but almost feel like one, and you’ll likely find that your heart rate goes to over 90% of maximum by the finish.

For many runners, I assign this DUSA progression run as part of a 50- to 60-minute run where they run easily for 40 to 50 minutes then “progress” to a strong pace for the last five to 15 minutes. With my elite marathoners, I assign DUSA progression runs of up to 90 minutes in length and with up to 15 to 25 minutes fast. But, by simply using the idea of running the last 15-25% of your run at a faster pace, you can adapt this progression run to whatever duration or distance you run.

Compared to the thirds progression run, a DUSA involves a slightly faster pace for a slightly shorter amount of time and provides a little different stimulus to the body.

You’ll be surprised at how fun a DUSA workout is and that it really doesn’t take much out of you. I insert it into an athlete’s program where I want to make sure the athlete gets some quality running but can’t afford a long recovery time after the workout. Again, the idea is that we get a few more minutes of Stamina training integrated into the training week but that none of these fast portions are intense enough or last long enough to cause any lasting fatigue. You should not feel any effects of the DUSA progression run on your next run. If you do, you are probably pushing too hard in the faster portion. You may also want to change where you insert them into your program. Consider including more recovery runs before or after your progression runs.

3) Super Fast Finish

The final type of progression run is one of my personal favorites and was utilized by Paul Tergat in his build-up to the Berlin Marathon where he set the world marathon record of 2:04:55. For this workout, the name says it all. You run a normal steady run but run super fast in the last three to six minutes of the run. When I say super fast, I mean super fast. Pretty much like a 5K race to the finish. Like the DUSA workout above, these runs are exhilarating yet don’t require a long recovery. They are fast enough to really stimulate your Speed and Sprinting ability (muscle recruitment, coordination, mental focus and lactic acid tolerance) but short enough (three to six minutes) that you will feel no lasting effect on your next run. That said, you must be accustomed to fast running before trying to run asuper fast finish progression run otherwise you will likely be sore from the speed.

We did a lot of these when I was in high school. We would run our normal easy run pace but as we approached the last half mile before getting back to campus, we would begin to push very hard. It’s probably even fair to say we raced each other to the finish line. Our thought was that this super fast finish established a habit out of finishing fast so that when it came to a race, no other team would be able to finish as fast as we could. It would just be automatic that we would run hard at the end. As warned in the previous progression runs, we did not do this on our key recovery days. We ran it on a day where we were completely recovered.

How Progression Runs Benefit You

While the above told you the “how’s” of progression runs, I want to also tell you the “why’s” so that you can be smart if you integrate this type of training into your program. I find that progression runs are effective for three primary reasons. First, we know that warming up the muscles by starting out slowly not only decreases your risk of injury but “primes” the physiological pathways that will be used in faster running. If you push too hard before the appropriate energy delivery systems are ready for the effort, then you will stress the anaerobic systems; not what we’re after in our normal, everyday runs. In fact, going anaerobic (or more correctly, building up too much lactic acid) can even inhibit the development of your aerobic system so make sure that if the purpose of your run is to develop your aerobic system, you don’t start the run too fast.

Second (and I think this is most important), progression runs allow you, across your training cycle, to increase the volume of faster, stamina-type training. For example, if you include a couple of 60-minute progression runs that include 10 minutes at a fast pace in your program each week, you will add an additional 20 minutes of stamina training to your program. Across your training cycle, this additional stamina training results in a much fitter athlete.

Third, this increase in the volume of stamina training comes at a very small price. Correctly using progression runs results in very little fatigue compared with normal running. In fact, my experience has been that the athletes who most often suffer from overtraining, injury, undue fatigue and poor racing are those who push too hard, too soon and for too long in their runs, particularly their easy and recovery runs. Progression runs allow you to insert fast running into your training runs (feeding your need for speed) but in a way from which you can easily recover.

How to Integrate Progression Runs into Your Training

As important as it is to understand the why’s and how’s of progression runs, it’s more important to know how to safely and effectively incorporate them into your training. I recommend that near the end of your Lydiard-style base phase you first add one progression run into your weekly schedule with ample recovery time leading up to and after the progression run day. In other words, don’t do a progression run on the day after your long run. Once more accustomed to progression running, then you can begin to include more in your weekly schedule based on your experience level, training frequency and training phase.

One note: just because progression runs are beneficial, this doesn’t mean that “all” of your runs should be progressions. Progression runs are just one component of a well-balanced training program and can be used to temper any tendencies to start runs too fast. They also add some (often much needed) variety to runs, which keeps things fun. The number of progression runs that you can tolerate each week is dependent on your experience level and ability to tolerate training. If you run three to four times per week, you may only run a progression run every other week – the other days being devoted to other types of training. A pro runner who runs ten to 13 times per week, however, may run two to six progression runs per week, mostly DUSA and super fast finish workouts. Like all training, you must start conservatively and see how your body reacts to progression run workouts. With this information, you can find the optimum training routine that works for you.

Final Thoughts

The next time you are in a relaxed training phase, try incorporating progression runs into your program. The workouts not only add variety and make training fun, but significantly boost your fitness without a lengthy recovery. Used as part of a smart, overall approach to training that includes building an endurance base, gaining strength through stamina training, adding speed and working on your finishing sprint, progression runs will give your fitness a boost.

 

This is the last photo of my Yelo muffin this week I promise, but I must warn you it is a beauty. The muffins at Yelo really are special. ( http://www.yelocornerstore.com.au )

Yelo muffin and coffee. Perfect (alone) Thanks. Mark Lee.
Yelo muffin and coffee. Perfect (alone) Thanks. Mark Lee.