Run slowly. Run injury free. Run more often. Get fitter. Get faster.
If you put the two statements at either end of the above process together it doesn’t really make sense does it!? But considering the whole as an approach to getting faster it makes nothing but sense to me, and I’ve got my Garmin logs to prove it…in just six weeks of training!!
My story over, spread over the last two seasons will hopefully put enough meat on the bone to convince you of the value in another confusing maxim “…slow and steady wins the race…”
Two years ago I went into the off season having just signed onto a run training programme. In short it was excellent. Videos at the start and end of the three month programme proved that my form had improved and I could also see it in my 1k splits and 5k races. We must have dug into 12 or so different drills and techniques; everything from breathing and stride length to conditioning and foot strike position.
I took the momentum of these gains into the last half of the off-season and trained hard continuing to work on speed and consistently pushing my PBs. The result was mild Achilles tendonitis going into my first race and by mid-season…well, my season was over. I couldn’t race or train properly because I was unable to run. A good physiotherapist identified problems with my IT band but by that point it was all over. I’d over-trained.
Last year I was determined not to over train, so I minimised my running and instead focussed on swimming. My turbo training plan didn’t last very long, I’m not a big fan – rather be out on the road!! I thought I’d overcome this by upping my resistance training, I wouldn’t be found out on any hills because I’d be the strongest I’ve ever been – and I was! Back to the scene of the crime with no Achilles tendonitis, yay! In the first race of the season I sliced nearly a minute and a half off my swim from the previous year. The bike leg was completed again with a similar margin…I was flying! It was in T2 I experienced exercise induced cramp for the first time in my life. The pain was slightly offset by the little dance my quads were doing all by themselves!? DNF. I had under-trained.
What have I learned? For me, a balanced approach to training with a lean towards aerobic training is the way to get results. Two years ago I was going out and training at close to race pace. This is fine when working on speed drills, such as interval training, but not always. Last year I developed the strength to get on my bike a fly up hills like never before, but at the expense of base fitness. My background is not endurance sport, it’s team sports like rugby, football and basketball. These are fast twitch, explosive power disciplines so my base fitness is significantly lower than it needs to be.
Most of my runs now use a technique developed by Dr Phil Maffetone. One way to describe the level of intensity is to run at a speed whereby you can hold a conversation. The method is to subtract your age from 180, add 5 if
you’ve been training and progressing for over two years but subtract 5 if you have respiratory issues such as asthma or regularly get colds/flu. I’m 41 with asthma so I try to keep my BPMs hovering at around 140. In practice my average is around 140-142 as when I start my run it fly’s up to around 170 pretty much straight away!! A tip is to walk for 20 or 30 seconds in order to lower it.
What this means is, combined with one speed session every other week, I’m running further each week than I’ve ever run before, I’m injury free and I’m feeling stronger when I run. I’ll be able to judge speed gains over the next few months but it stands to reason they will come. My BPM should stay the same whilst my km splits should lower.
If you’ve used this approach and it’s worked please share, if it hasn’t worked and you’ve fixed it please comment!