Friday, July 19, 2013

Rebuilding the running toolkit

The overriding theme of my winter of discontent has been a flip-flopping between various training systems and plans. Being injured it seemed a futile exercise. It has been firstly a very good learning process for me. With no running to come I've been able to educate myself on the ways of the world from a training perspective. Every book I've read, every website, every research article and twitter dialogue with coaches and fellow runners has been instrumental in giving me a clearer picture both of what I want to achieve as a runner and how I'm going to get it. The secondly I have been forced to examine my habits as a runner and critically look at my past training. It's easy to finish a training cycle and look forward to the next goal. Far more difficult is to look back with a critical eye, first celebrating the positives but then combing through the embers for clues on how to improve, driven in part by failures and those extra tough sessions. This is a lesson that I picked up from each of the many wonderful running books I have read over the winter. The past determines the present and informs the future.

So one needs to look at their current toolkit. I am a 36:13 (at the coast!) 10km runner. I have come from far, as recently as May last year my 10km PB was what now seems an unlikely, 42:38, a time I do as a training run. As I have said on these pages my future goals is to be a consistent sun 35:00 runner up here on the highveld, a goal which forms part of my desire to run fast marathons in 3-5 years time. I have spent so much time sifting through workouts, both the empirical data as well my descriptions for clues as to the next step forward. What are my strengths, what are my weaknesses? A track session I did tells me that speed is not my weakness as do my kilometre splits in some races. Strength is perhaps a problem. I was in great shape when I did the Kudus 15km back in January. I felt great for 6km but even while trying to even out the effort in the second half I was defeated by the hills. And of course my stamina is a problem as is evident by my constant inability to run close to even splits even on a flat flat course down at the coast in perfect running conditions. Endurance in itself is not terrible having running some great half marathons and done long runs up to 32km.

So in my 10km toolkit, I have the basic endurance for the distance and for my goals actually have more than enough speed. Where I fall short is in strength and stamina or specific endurance. The latter is easily explained by my lack of experience, the former something I have neglected.

In The Art of Running Faster, former 13:15 and 27:34 5000m and 10000m British runner Julian Goater talks about the 5 Ss that are the cornerstone of a good runner: speed, stamina, strength, skill, suppleness. Now I'm not sure about skill but of the remaining four, the only quality that I am confident stands up to scrutiny in the context is the first of those, speed. And skill too is debatable, so 1 1/2 out of 4.

That is the past that brought me to the present that I have used to inform both my short term planning and long term skeleton outline.

But in the meantime my thoughts are not really with running but rather getting strong again. I have committed myself to a minimum of 4 weeks off up to as long as I need to be able to run pain free. My injury has been focused on staying off my feet where possible and doing my strengthening exercises for the muscles supporting the knee. Returning to the 5 Ss, I'm using this time away from running to work on strength. The knee rehab exercises are working my lower body but I've also started to build up a strength routine that will also work my upper body.

When I do start running the first six weeks will deal with skill. I have signed for the Six Week Kinetic Revolution Running Technique course. The great thing about the course is that even though it incorporates some running, because one really needs to concentrate on doing the drills correctly, there won't be a temptation to overdo. Even with rest periods, the first week includes no more than 20 minutes a session and my careful calculations show that the volume progression will be 10km to 22km over 6 weeks. Coupled with this I'm going to start to incorporate Coach Jay Johnson's Eight Week General Strength and Mobility progression. These workouts are designed to be done after running, teaching one to make strength and mobility part of the whole running routine not an afterthought. Along with dynamic stretching I hope this will begin to address suppleness.

After the six week course, I'm going to give myself a minimum of four weeks to build up to running about 80% of my average  mileage. I worked that in the 12 months previously from when I decided to take a break, I was averaging 46km/week. I'll be looking to get to about 40km week of easy mileage before beginning formal training. I know how I want to structure my training from then on. I've really looked at how I respond to sessions, and where I'm strong and weak. My focus will be on aerobic endurance and stamina without neglecting other parts of the running toolkit, just modulating frequency, intensity and volume, and  of course getting recovery right. I'll leave it at that for now and will detail out the less strict, but honest plan in a future post.

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