I recently posted an article in the training pool about ‘Speed Reserve’ and we had a discussion on Facebook about self analysing your run strengths and weaknesses. As we start the build towards spring, now is the time to start personalising your run training a little more. If you didn’t read the previous article about Speed Reserve, do it now before continuing, you can find it HERE
Possibly the most important thing about writing a training plan, is deciding which sessions are best for you, based on your strengths and weaknesses. Some people will tell you that running lots of long slow miles worked really well for them and others will say that high intensity, shorter workouts, worked better for them. This results in people constantly changing from one thing to the next, willing to give anything a try, to see if it’s the ‘silver bullet’ which makes then faster.
A little self analysis goes a long way, so let’s look at 3 simple factors:
- You speed
- Your engine
- Your endurance / resilience
- Speed simply refers to how fast you can run over 100-200m and has a significant impact on your 5k race performances. If you’ve read the article about ASR linked above, then you’ll already understand why short term speed is critical. You should also fully understand it’s nothing to do with aerobic fitness, it’s more about neurological factors, coordination and force production. An example session may be fartlek, run 50-150m fast and smooth, jog very slowly for 2 minutes and repeat. You should never really be out of breath.
- The engine refers to your aerobic system, when you’re breathing hard and your heart is beating fast, you’re working your engine. An example session might be 5 X 3 minutes faster than 5k pace, with 2 minutes easy jog recovery. This would give you a hard aerobic workout, but it is NOT a SPEED SESSION. The purpose of speed is to run as fast as you can and this requires very short distances, with longer recoveries (such as fartlek)
- Endurance / resilience refers to your ability to run long without slowing down. There’s lots of factors to discuss which may influence your endurance / resilience, physiological factors include things such as aerobic fitness, fat burning, fuel economy and limiting impact damage (conditioning the legs and everything else to hitting the ground for a long period of time without them bleeding internally – that’s what causes sore legs). There’s also psychological factors, adjusting your mind to run for 3 hours without constantly asking… “are we there yet? I’ve had enough now…” Because there are so many varied factors, resilience is a very good word to encompass it all.
You need to have a think about your personal strengths and weaknesses and then make a decision (with our help) which pathway you should follow. Here’s some simple things to take into account:
- Speed: What’s your 100-200m pace?
- Engine: What’s your current 5k PB?
- Resilience: How have you performed in longer events, such as Ironman marathon?
If your speed and engine are poor, then you are pathway A. You need to reduce your 5k time before you worry about sustaining it for longer periods of time. If your speed and engine are good, but resilience is poor, then you’re pathway B.
What if your speed is good, but your engine and resilience are poor? You’d be somewhere in the middle, pathway B would give you more benefits, but potentially some ‘engine work’ thrown in would also help.
If your 5k time still needs work and your speed is poor, we should always work on that now to resolve it before adding resilience. One of the things you really need to know is when do you make the switch? You may be looking at the above questions thinking… “how do i know if my 5k is going to get quicker? I’ve been training hard for 12 weeks and it’s no better, so is that it? Am I at my limit and should I switch to more endurance based work?”
That’s a very difficult question to answer and you may need to discuss on the Facebook group. Your discussion will probably help others too who are in the same position. For others though, the decision may be very simple. If you still have plenty of room to improve your 5k then crack on, it’s only the first week of January, so we’ve got lots of time. If you know you’re a fast 5k runner who continually slows down in Ironman and runs close to 4 hours, you’re probably better sticking with what speed and engine you have and working on the obvious weakness.
Keep it simple but get it right
Sometimes the training you do needs to be simple. For example, a runner who is pathway B, may simply need to run 3-4 times per week at an easy pace for 1-2 hours…. that’s it. Because of the way coaching and sports science has developed in recent years, an athlete given that routine may reply “Is that it? Just run easy for 4-5 hours a week? I could have wrote that myself?” Remember… we’re here primarily to ensure you’re doing the ‘right thing’. I can write a technical session plan with multiple intensities, intervals and recoveries which may look great on paper and it may feel like you’re getting value for money, but if it’s the wrong session for you, then it’s absolutely pointless. We’re here to tell you what you need to do, we’re here to keep it simple and most important, it should always make sense to you. If you understand it and you agree with it, you’re always more likely to follow it and be happy doing so.