The 20-Week Hard-Training Program
The initial goal of my hard-training program is to condition myself to be able to run 112 km/week, a distance that I have also found to be optimal for the majority of recreational runners who have major time constraints. Recent studies have been unable to show that training more than 120 km/week produces any additional physiological benefits to competitive racers (Sjodin & Svedenhag, 1985). This weekly distance is also used by the middle-distance athletes trained under Bill Bowerman (see post 5) and was also advocated by Herb Elliott (Lenton, 1981). This distance is about twice that I normally run when not training hard.
An important reason I do not run further in training is that when I start running further (e.g, up to 160 km/week) I begin to feel that I am doing nothing but running. I feel rather like Ron Daws, who trained for the 1968 Olympic Marathon in the dark mornings and evenings of a Minnesota winter (Daws, 1977). He wrote that at times he returned from his runs not knowing whether he should be going to bed or getting ready for a day’s work. Once I reach that state, I am no longer able to maintain my interest in running.
Pilates Hundred Exercise Photo Gallery
Worse, though, heavy training unquestionably affects one’s creativity; such training interferes with other commitments and may introduce other adverse stresses such as inadequate sleep, excessive fatigue, family disharmony, and
Missed deadlines. Having written previously that running enhances one’s productivity and creativity, I must now admit that too much training has the opposite effect. As always, Arthur Newton recognized this:
Aggressively serious physical effort left me with a positive disinclination to study anything that needed real brain work so much of my available energy was used for training that only a mere trickle was left over for recreational purposes, not nearly enough to permit me to delve into metaphysics or similar intricate matters which always beckoned me. I regretted it all the time, for I felt I was losing a great deal in the way of education, yet to neglect even a small part of my training might make all the difference between reasonable certainty and chance, and I distrusted and dislike the latter. (Newton, 1947, p. 66)
I suspect that the biochemical explanation for this is that heavy training causes depletion of certain brain chemicals, the reduction of which also explains the relaxing and tranquilizing effects of running and, in the long term, leads to the overtraining syndrome (see post 10). This effect is also the reason serious runners cannot work at jobs that demand excessive mental effort, particularly in the afternoons; this is especially true during periods of intensive training.
For approximately the first 10 weeks of my hard-training program I gradually increase my training from 90 to 110 km/week. At first, my average training speed will be slower than 5 min/km; I will struggle up each hill, and the longer runs will be particularly tiring. I judge’the stressfulness of these runs not only by how I feel during the run but also by how quickly I recover after the run. A run that has been too long or too hard will make me want to sleep for an hour or two, I will be unable to do any mental work that day, and the following day I will run tiredly. A run that is just the right length will leave me a little tired; I will need to sleep for only a short time, after which I will be able to do an hour or two of mental work if I so choose. By the following day’s run my body will have recovered so that my gentle recovery run of 6 to 14 km is effortless. During this phase, I will run three to five short races of up to 16 km. Any longer races that I might enter will constitute long training runs.
This break-in phase, the details of which are contained in Exercises 6.6, lasts for 10 to 12 weeks, during which time my long weekend runs will be no less than 24 km and no longer than 32 km. The major indications that this phase has had its desired effect is that I start to finish the long runs so fresh that I want to run farther on the following long run; simultaneously my average training speed starts to increase, and the hills that I run become easier. When this happens I am ready to move onto the second (peaking) phase of my program.
I do most of this training to and from work, and all is over hilly terrain. Tuesday and Thursday afternoon runs will occasionally include slightly faster runs, either track or hill repetitions.