As we progress our training at Fast Trax we look to some of the greats of the past for some thoughts on training. The following are some thoughts on training from the "Training Wisdom of John Kellogg".
- You'll get in very good shape eventually by jogging or by running lots of mileage very slowly, but it will take a LONG TIME to get to ultimate fitness if you're not regularly challenging yourself a little more than that. In short, long, slow distance is good, but long, comfortably fast distance is BETTER. Do a couple of runs per week in which you progress from your regular easy pace to a "high-end" aerobic pace. Also known as "maximum steady state", this is the fastest that you can run while feeling smooth, strong, comfortable, and in control. Any faster would result in distress. Not that there's anything wrong with REALLY HAMMERING the end of a run every now and then if you feel awesome; you just don't want to make EVERY one of these high-end runs as hard as that. Keep most of them at a pace that will train YOU but force someone SLOWER than you to struggle to keep up. It's usually best to PLAN at least ONE of these runs per week, but give yourself the OPTION to run another one or two if you happen to be feeling good during a regular easy run. Don't run hard more than two days in a row, though - at least not until you're extremely sure about what pace you can handle on a near-daily basis. Some runners can reach their maximum steady state for a PORTION of a run nearly EVERY DAY. Lydiard's top runners did this, as do most of today's elite Kenyans and Moroccans, but this requires quite a bit of experience (and discipline) to not OVERDO it.
- Do a little something about your speed a couple of times per week. Set aside one day each week for 2- 3 sets of buildups or strides of 15-35 seconds in duration (5-6 reps in each set). Run them with the wind, if any (or sometimes on a very gentle downhill soft surface), jogging back to the start between each (or jogging an equal distance). Jog 5-10 minutes between sets. Make each rep in a set slightly faster than the previous rep. Start each new set slower than you FINISHED the previous set but a little faster than you STARTED that previous set. Run RELAXED, not tying up or experiencing any form breakdown, but some of the last ones in each set can be very fast. For variety, every second or third week, you could run 10-15 x 1 minute moderately fast (not tying up, though - about current 2 mile race pace) with 1 minute jogs between each. DO NOT TIE UP! This is BASE training; all you're trying to do is stay COMFORTABLE and neuromuscularly EFFICIENT at faster speeds. You're NOT doing hard anaerobicwork yet. Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that you can also add 3-6 short buildups or strides in the middle of the cool-down jog following a "high-end" run.
- Vary your running surfaces. Giving your legs a litle variety will improve your chances of running more injury-free mileage. Do about 50% of your running on SOFT surfaces.
- Alternate high weeks with low weeks while you're building up into uncharted mileage territory. Stress/Recovery. Stimulation/Adaptation. You'll reap more benefits from pushing your boundaries out if you give your body some chance to "absorb the training". These high and low blocks don't HAVE to be seven day periods, either. You can experiment with this and find out what gives you the best returns, but the main idea is to stress yourself enough mileage-wise so that you're running somewhat TIRED for a few days or so, then back off just long enough to start feeling fresh again. Pretty soon, you'll be able to run longer high mileage stints and only need the occasional few super-short days. Oh, yeah: NEVER drastically up the mileage AND the intensity simultaneously. That's how many people get in trouble and claim that "high mileage doesn't work for them".
- Begin incorporating two-a-day workouts at some point. Start with one or two "doubles" per week (make the shorter run an easy 25-30 minutes at first), and build up to 3-4 doubles per week on your high weeks. People have debated whether singles or doubles are more productive. Let's settle that: Doubles are MORE productive for base training - WITH THE QUALIFICATIONS that you've learned what time of year to use them and when to back off, and as long as your longer run of the day eventually becomes long enough to count as a decent length single in itself. People have been asking, "Should I do 13-14 in a single or should I break it up into two runs of 5 and 8-9?" Answer: Do BOTH - 13-14 in a single AND another run of 5 that day! Once you've safely BUILT UP to that kind of mileage, of course.
- Tough, tying-up, knee-grabbing stuff is not TOTALLY bad - as long as it's done in moderation. You've got to have SOME of it if you're ever going to RACE well. Incorporate a brief period (6-8 weeks) of very hard anaerobic training (1-3 times per week) once every 5-6 months (following a good base, of course), thereby bringing yourself to a peak twice per year. Do not attempt to peak more than twice per year. It takes about 20 weeks to do a correct buildup/peak scheme and you can HOLD your peak for only a few weeks, after which you'll need a couple of weeks of "down time", so two peaks per year works quite nicely.