Take a page from the rulebook of running to change the way you train…
We all have one goal when we’re training – improvement. But achieving a steady progression in running isn’t a simple case of pushing yourself harder and faster in every training session. There are a whole host of variables that need careful consideration. When should I take my rest day? On which days should I run hard? Is it better to train on my own or with friends? Should I do what the pros do?
To make matters even more confusing, one quick look on the internet for hints and tips can leave you utterly bamboozled. There are so many books, DVDs, magazines, websites, forums and journals that all promise to make you fitter and faster, and the bad news is that lots of them contradict each other.
So how do you avoid going round in circles, or taking advice that might prove more of a hindrance than a benefit? The answer is to draw up a set of basic rules and principles, which should form the foundations of all your run training. These rules will help you make intelligent decisions, and stay in control of your own triathlon progress.
Click through our gallery to find out what our seven basic rules of running are.
1 Your Body Adapts To Hard Training
For many of us this will seem like an obvious rule, but bear with me, be cause it sets the others in context. The stress of training causes our bodies to adapt and make improvements in our physiology. For example, as we train, our active muscles become stronger and develop greater blood flow, while changes to the muscle cells give you more energy and less fatigue. You’ll probably develop a more efficient stride from those improved muscles, and your body weight will reduce, along with the amount of fat you carry. These improvements will increase the amount of training stress you can tolerate, allowing you to run harder in training, and ultimately race faster.
2 Train Specifically, But With A Sense Of Balance
Your body can only respond to the type of training you give it. So many triathletes get this wrong. I often hear them after a race wondering why their run split was slower than they’d hoped for. It usually turns out that they’d not done any race-paced training, or practised running off the bike. So they’d hoped to become fast at running in a triathlon, and yet they’d never prepared their body for it. So the lesson is to consider the specific demands of your upcoming triathlons and then train your body for them. However, there is a downside to all this. Being too race-specific and working too hard on just one aspect of your training can lead you to become over-trained in that area. So you need to balance your training, and that’s where Rule 3 comes in handy.
3 Know Your Limits
No two triathletes are the same, and we all have our own unique limits. What’s right for one person may not necessarily be right for you. So, while your friend’s training may result in them setting new PBs, it may not be doing the same for you. So don’t base your training or racing on anyone else except for yourself. One way to learn about your training limits is to record your workouts in diary and keep an eye on your progress over time. You’ll soon see when you responded well to a particular level o f training, or when your running left you in a heap on the floor. You’ll get an even clearer idea of your limits if you record your training efforts with a stopwatch, heart-rate monitor, or better still, a speed and distance monitor.
4 Train In Six-Week Blocks
Most of the benefits of a new training load come within the first six weeks before your form begins to plateau. That means you’ll need to re-evaluate and progress your training before your body becomes too accustomed to it. You may even reap the majority of the benefits of a running regime before six weeks, but ramping up your training before your body is ready can lead to injury and fatigue. Your training should feel like it’s getting easier before you begin to train harder or more often. Consider taking a short recovery period after six weeks to recharge your batteries and then you’ll be ready to progress your training to the next level.
5 Improvements Become Harder To Find
When you’re new to triathlon you’ll find that improvements in performance come thick and fast. Frustratingly though, as you increase your training over time, the improvements soon become harder to find . That doesn’t mean that increasing your training will make you slower. It just means that the returns from training will diminish over time as you increase your distance and intensity. As you get nearer your potential the more important it becomes to focus on small percentage gains, such as aerodynamics, diet, technique and mental strength. So while you may not always improve in leaps and bounds, don’t lose heart. There are still plenty of things you can do to get ahead of your competition.
6 The Harder You Train, The Harder You’ll Fall
This is another frustrating one; the harder you train in running, the more likely you are to get ill and injured. This comes back to Rule 4 about knowing your own breaking point. Training cannot be treated in isolation either. A lack of sleep, long hours at work and a torrid personal life all greatly influence your breaking point. This is another reason why keeping a training log can help, so it’s worth making a note of your tiredness. It may take you several seasons to establish what’s enough and what’s too much, but it’ll mean you can train consistently hard without overcooking it.
7 Fitness Gains Stay With You
Once you’ve reached a particular level in triathlon, you’ll find it’s easier to maintain that level in the future. So you can focus on certain aspects of your training without losing all your fitness in the others, such as your swimming. This is useful in tri, where dividing training across three sports can make it tricky to keep improving in each one. The fact we maintain fitness allows us to divide training into specific blocks. Many coaches recommend long, steady training in the winter, building towards fast-paced efforts in spring. Thanks to Rule 7 you can do this without losing the race fitness developed in the previous months and years.