So after the razz-matazz of a watch launch, we get back to the first world problems in life – how to train effectively. The first thing to note that this article is not about telling you what training you should be doing. It’s merely a guide and an overview of how I personally structure my training, as well as insights from others I know and have learnt from. As always, we welcome your comments and thoughts, and if you do it differently, we’d love to get your opinion too.
The Status Quo
I’m sure we’re all guilty at times of going through the motions and filling the weekly mileage with 10-15km ‘easy’ runs and then a longer run at the weekend. Then we wonder why we don’t quite hit the performances we would like in actual races? A familiar sounding story? The answer could be that while we’re training, we not ‘really’ training. Of course there are two camps, those that are happy to just run and are not bothered about improving per se, and there are those that are. Both are perfectly valid and we all run for different reasons… but if you want to improve, see what you think of the below…
All the gear and no idea
A few years ago, I was one of these ‘just run’ and see what happens kind of guys. I never had a real plan, I would just run and see what happened. Then one day I started training properly with a bunch of mates and all of that changed as each session had a specific purpose and a goal.
But what is effective training and how do we go about it? I posed this question again on our Facebook page last week and got some great responses. Two in particular stood out for me:
Anna Papji commented, “There is no such thing as over-training, only under-recovery. Every training session should have a purpose. Your nutrition should be geared towards performance. Rest, recovery, prehab/rehab should all be built-in.”
Keith Bearne added a great quote from Christian Thibaudeau: ”The more you can train without exceeding your capacity to recover, the more you’ll progress.”
So there we have it! It’s all about your ability to recover. But surely there’s more to it than just recovery? Indeed there is, and it’s pretty simple in our book; “Train like a Mother”. But with that training, recovery it seems is the answer towards making your training effective and for improvements to be made.
But what type of training are you doing to ensure that you’re hanging on for dear life for that recovery and then recovering well to tackle the next week of training?
Bearing in mind that most of us have day-jobs and that training involves getting up at 5am to make the most of our already precious day, here are a few tips from us…
Trick the mind…
So what should/does training look like? To begin with, my ‘week’, now starts on a Friday? Why? Well the rationale for this is that typically most people tend to see Monday as the start of the week, which given that most people leave their long runs until the weekend, means that you’re banking on making up a lot of your mileage on one of the last runs of your ‘week’.
A simple psychological change means that come Sunday, I’m already up to around 70kms for the week and mentally I think that makes a huge difference to how I perceive my training. It’s not for everyone, but for me the slight change has worked brilliantly.
The Long run…
When we first started out running, long runs would be more of a social event, which to some extent they certainly are as it’s great to catch up with mates. But if you want to improve, the long run (as one of the most important runs of the week), is not a bush walk with a picnic at the halfway mark.
At Ultra168, long runs have specific time goals set to them with splits along the way to keep us in check. Yes you heard that right, there are splits aligned to training runs. This was particularly important when training for the GNW 100 miler, and the week in week out run from Cedar Brush to Congewai and back. Splits we taken at different markers along the course to beat each week. Having done that section so many times in training (and what I think is the hardest section of GNW), on race day, it was a breeze and for me personally, the most enjoyable section of the entire race. I had so much fun bounding into the Basin an hour up on my splits, and it was because I’d run every nook and cranny of that section beforehand.
So you’ve done 60kms on Saturday… what does Sunday look like?
Recovering from the weekend
Now, there’s a few schools of thought here. Some might say that after a 60kms training session on Saturday, Sunday and maybe Monday should be slightly ‘easier’. Well indeed, to some extent they are. Sunday could well be a rest day, but personally I like to get out for a very light 10kms or so, just to make sure the legs know they’re in training. But what of Monday? Normally it’s the day after the day after that gets to people, and I think this is where the most gains are to be had for improving your training.
We’re lucky enough here at Ultra168 to have some single track trail along the Sydney Harbour foreshore to thrash ourselves on. While it does not have a huge amount of climb, it has enough ‘pinchy’ hills to keep you interested. Coupled with a few detours up some stairs every now and again, this run is where a lot of the gains are made. It hurts running this one hard, but if done week in and week out, the legs slowly become used to the pain you inflict on them following the bashing at the weekend, and a certain degree of ‘hardness’ is built up here over time. Not only that, but because it’s on trail and uneven, you need to watch your feet and consciously pick them up. With tired weekend legs, this can be a challenge, but it’s again why we do this run and not some simple road run where you can jog with your eyes closed. 100% concentration is required at all times.
Hills, Hills and More Hills
The dreaded hills session, AKA the session of the week that we enjoy the most. In some regards, while this is a hills session, it’s also a tempo session given that its run at pace too. The name of the game is to find a hill or as many hills as you can, preferably over 500m in length, but nearer 1km if you can and with around 70-80m of elevation from start to finish. Then proceed to run up, but then run down as quickly as your body will allow you. No chilling on the descent or walking down… the most important thing is the downhill. If you’re slamming it downhill, it means your ability to recover has been enhanced and you’re generally getting fitter and fitter – or so the theory goes! There’s that word recovery again…
Here at Ultra168, a staple Tuesday run is 20kms of up and downhills as fast as we can. On occasion, some of us have been known to get up at 3:30am and attempt 3 laps of our hills circuit. Just make sure you have no meetings in the diary that day 🙂
The Road Run
As trail runners, we can often be some-what mistaken for bush walkers, what with all the hills and walking that goes on in 100 mile races. However, believe it or not, we do actually venture onto the road now and again, and for 1.5 hours each week we’ll smash the bitumen up with a slightly ‘pacier’ run to the cafe for a soy latte. Again, there’s no real let-up here, this is done at a less than comfortable pace so that you’re not sharing tips on how to shave your legs or how many calories you’ve not eaten this week. As always, make sure there’s some good hills in there too, and that you’re running up them.
The Track Sessions (Shhhhhh, don’t tell the marathon runners)
Yes indeed, you heard it here first. Apparently ultra-runners hit the track. But not the real track like proper athletes, just an oval, with some grass and some trees to make it appear as if we’re in the bush. There’s a variety of things you can do here, but one of our favs is the pyramid of 400m sprints with 90 sec recovery in between. This is generally where the frothing at the mouth and the feeling of wanting to be sick comes into play. But a pain au chocolate and cappuccino afterwards helps us overcome these feelings, and all is good after an hour of sheer hell 🙂
The Day Off
Ultra-runners struggle with this. For us it’s all about how kms we’ve done in a week. We started this article talking about recovery, and that’s what it’s all about. The above stuff is just a guide, and note that the word ‘easy’ doesn’t even come into play here. It’s all done to make you feel like you’re working. So when those precious day’s off come, make sure you use them wisely. Eat well, sleep well and stretch, stretch and stretch some more. My chiropractor (whom I’ve seen far too many times), uses the car analogy:
“The body is like a car. It needs oil and it needs maintenance. If you neglect to feed it and look after it, eventually it will just grind to a halt.”
No truer a phrase is there in running. It’s your ability to recover from all of this on a weekly basis that will determine how capable you are of doing it all over again the following week, and the week after that and then the week after that. Indeed, if you’re training for a 100 miler – for 10-12 weeks.
This is what we mean by ‘Train like a Mother’. There is no ‘easy’ in training if you want to get better and better and see your times improve. By the end of your training period you should as Mr. Vize puts it, “be hanging on for dear life for that taper”.