Wednesday easy, learning about flinching, wood stove

11 miles today, again trying to stay at or near HR 140.  Very difficult to keep the heart rate down like that, especially on a consistent basis with hills.  It’s either too high or too low.  I suspect I’ll get better at it as I keep working on it.  I’m convinced that I should be spending some time running at these lower intensities, at least for some of the week.

I’d like to come as close to this in each of the next several weeks:

  • 2 rides per week, aiming for longer distances with some specific workouts for recovery.  Hoping this builds the aerobic system.
  • 1 long run per week
  • 1 real speed workout
  • 1 tempo workout
  • 1 aerobic run, most likely on the treadmill on an incline.  Hoping that over time I can get faster at a pretty low heart rate with bigger inclines
  • Strength work and stretching sprinkled in to each day, or at least 4-5 days per week

I think I’ll continue something like this through mid February when I have a marathon.  I’ll use that marathon as a test to give me an indicator of my fitness.

Following that race I’m trying to decide between taking on another race in April-May or putting all my focus on the Pikes Peak double in August.  Leaning towards focusing on the Pikes double.  Starting in March I’ll have about 24 weeks to prepare for Pikes Peak, which I’ve learned is as good as it gets for good race preparation.

I’m probably going to start writing a bit more about books here.  I just picked up The Flinch, by Julien Smith for the low price of $0.  Part of Seth Godin’s Domino Project.  It’s only available as an ebook.  I’ve only read the first few pages but I think it will be good for me.  I can see it being one of these books that I read in a day or two.

I love reading in front of the wood stove, which we cranked up for the first time this year.  If things go well (i.e., we don’t run out of wood), it should burn almost non-stop for the next 3 months.  It’s one of my favorite things about our place.  It keeps the upstairs nice and warm during the night, probably adds about 5-10 degrees.  It’s awesome.


The missing ingredient that can transform your training

It could mean the difference between setting your personal record and falling just short.  It could help you finish strong in your first race instead of shuffling through the final miles.  It might keep you injury free or help you conquer the most challenging course you’ve ever run.  It could help you get in the best possible shape without neglecting your family, work, and other responsibilities.

Yet you probably don’t have one.

A training strategy is an essential tool for runners, but most runners don’t take the time or effort to develop one.

The primary resources of any runner – time, energy, and physical capabilities – are limited.

A training strategy guides how you allocate these limited resources to achieve your running objective(s).  It helps answer questions such as:

  • How much time should you allocate to running vs. other workouts?
  • What kinds of running workout should you focus on?
  • How much time should you allocate to rest and recovery?

In this post I’ll outline how a training strategy can help you and what a training strategy looks like.

Why do you need a training strategy?

When I got serious about running marathons, I ripped a “training plan” article out of Runner’s World magazine.  The training plan outlined about 18 weeks of running.  It prescribed a run for each day of each week, with a rest day sprinkled in here and there.

I dutifully performed the training workouts prescribed in the plan, fully expecting to achieve my goal in my next marathon.

I failed miserably in my next marathon.

While the magazine-article training plan was useful, I needed more than it could offer.  I needed insights and guidance that were uniquely tailored to me – my performance level, my strengths and weaknesses, my preferences and habits.

I needed a training strategy.

The key to a training strategy is its unique focus on the individual.  Since each individual runner is different, each of us will have different training strategies.  Here’s what a training strategy offers:

  • A Reality Check.  A training strategy includes an honest assessment of your performance level, mindset, strengths and weaknesses as well as the amount time and energy you have available.  It includes a review of the past 12-18 months for previously hidden performance trends and issues.  This reality check provides a baseline for your training, especially if you identify and acknowledge poor habits or a weak fitness level.
  • Balance.  A training strategy considers all the elements that influence your running performance, including workouts, rest and recovery, and nutrition.  These aspects must be effectively balanced to improve your performance.  For example, your performance will suffer if your rest and recovery is not sufficient to support your workouts.  By considering all aspects of your running performance, a training strategy ensures that you have enough balance to succeed.
  • Day-to-day decision making support.  Life is unpredictable; it’s rare for an entire training period to pass without disruption.  Perhaps you or a relative is sick or you start a new project at work and you can’t spend as much time training as planned.  These unexpected events force you to make choices about how to tweak your training.  A training strategy narrows your focus, allowing you to make more informed choices.  You maintain the most important aspects of your training and, if necessary, compromise less important aspects.

A training strategy provides the context necessary for achieving your goals.  The training strategy should complement (not replace) your training plan.  Based specifically on your unique situation, a training strategy helps you make the right choices about what to include on your training plan as well as how to adjust it over time as your situation evolves.

What does a training strategy look like?

A training strategy can take whatever form is most effective for you.  It can be informal and simple (five bullet points on the back of a napkin), or it can be formal and comprehensive.  The key is accessibility – your training strategy should be easily accessible so you can frequently revisit it (revising it when necessary) during your training period.

Keep the contents of your training strategy minimal at first.  You can expand the contents over time as you gather information.  The minimal essential elements of a training strategy are:

  • Short description of your objectives.  A statement of your objectives; this will provide the basis for your strategy.  What are you trying to accomplish?  What are the biggest challenges that your objectives present?  Are these new challenges, or have you faced similar ones in the past?
  • Individual Assessment.  An analysis of your fitness level, recent performance, strengths and weaknesses relative to your objectives.  The assessment should help you identify potential areas of focus for your training.  Your analysis should review the past 12-18 months to spot any emerging trends.
  • Priorities.  A short list (five or fewer) of focus areas that will make the biggest difference in achieving your objectives.  Example focus areas include “Build the endurance to maintain my pace late in the race” or “Make sure I get enough sleep to recover sufficiently” or even “find something I can eat while I run.”  These priorities should be explicit choices to emphasize certain areas of your training plan, recognizing that you will put other areas on the back burner if needed.

Don’t spend a lot of time developing the first version of your training strategy.  It’s better to get a first version down quickly and update it periodically as your training progresses.  You can adjust your strategy as you evaluate the results of your training.

Once your training strategy is in place, it should be easier to develop a training plan.  If you already have a training plan, use your strategy as a sanity check – make sure the training plan is focused on your priorities.  The training strategy and training plan should be in synch – the training plan should be the tactics through which you implement your strategy.

This post discussed the “why” and “what” for a training strategy.  In the next post, I’ll walk through “how” to develop one, using my own strategy for an upcoming marathon as an example.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear feedback.  Do you currently have a training strategy?  How has it helped you?  Do you see value in creating one?  Is there something else that should be included in a training strategy?  Please post a comment and let me know your thoughts.