This is a great time of the year to consider our training in light of the goals we have set for the year ahead. To do this it is sometimes necessary to take a step back. Other sports can often provide some useful insights into training, and triathletes are especially good at training in a focussed, deliberate and time-constrained manner. In ‘The Time Crunched Triathlete’ Chris Carmichael attempts to maximised training benefits within a restricted time. He reviews plans based on the following headings, listed below, with my own personal interpretation:
Overload – training must push your body beyond where it currently is. To progress in terms of speed or endurance, activity must be difficult and long enough to stress the cardiovascular, muscular and glycolytic system. If you run 4 times a week, at a 9 mile pace, for 5 miles, you will get very good at that speed and distance, but you will not progress. Add tempo and fartlek runs, and/or increase distance, and times will come down and/or endurance will improve.
Recovery : training increases require rest, and the bigger the intensity or volume the more required. The body will recover in these times and repair the microscopic damage that has been done. Sleep, hydration and good nutrition are all prerequisites to getting the best out of the work performed.
Progression: follows on closely from overload. If you looking at a 50 mile race in 6 months time, distances in training will need to increase in line with goal. This will give not only the body, but as importantly the mind, the opportunities to prepare for the challenge. Note that progression can take more than one form: time and intensity are the two most important variables and training can be adjusted through both the interval duration and the time of recovery between.
Individuality: Training has to be appropriate to the individual. This can be in terms of the time, and timings, available to the runner. For example, a long run may need to be split into two shorter runs, one at the beginning and one at the end of the day, to allow for other commitments to be met. It can also take into account the goals being aimed for, endurance and speed balanced with each other.
Specificity: Consider the event(s). If you are planning a mountain marathon, try and run in similar conditions in training i.e. temperature, terrain, incline. This can be a challenge, for example, if you live far from similar landscape, however, though not as ideal as the real thing, it may be necessary to train on individual elements that will be faced e.g. running on rough muddy ground that may be flat, but including road training that may be on steep inclines.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ to training. It has to meet with your lifestyle, work and family commitments, and be in line with your body and mind to progress towards the goals currently in sight.