Saturday, February 17, 2018

Getting the balance right

For the masters runner, aging takes its toll. We get slower and we get injured. To keep running it's all about getting the right balance between training and recovery. To put it simply - train smartly. It's good to remind ourselves why aging slows us down, because then we can focus on doing the things to minimise those aging effects. The stock standard training approach for many runners is intervals on Tuesdays and Thursdays and long runs on Sundays. Some also like to race on Saturday and do a long run on Sunday. The problem for the masters runner is that the body just doesn't recover like it used to in more youthful times. A good step is to move away from distance-based training and use time-based intervals and sessions. Another good step is to allow for sufficient recovery time to reek the full benefits of the tougher sessions. If you are running tired all the time, you really can't expect to improve. Matt Fitzgerald has written about extending the microcycle used by masters runners. He suggests pushing your training out over a 9 day cycle, rather than the traditional 7 day cycle we all use. Then it is easy to go hard, easy, easy and repeat. Easy can be a full rest day, a simple easy run at an easy pace, cross training (e.g. a bike ride) or it can be an easy run with a progression at the end or something else along those lines. Hard would be intervals, tempo or a long run. The tricky thing for the working runner is that the long run will not always fall on the weekend. That said, it is beneficial to have regular easy weeks, and when the long run is not on the weekend, that seems like the perfect time to make it your easy week with a not so long long run. The 2 days of easy is perfect for my dodgy hammies and so this is the path I plan to follow over the next little while.
Well trained masters atheletes
A few speedygeese sessions (long intervals and long runs) have proved beneficial and my latest parkrun was under 25 minutes.  It seems no one is a McWinner, so we may have to have another bet on sub 24.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Practice what you preach and patience pays off

The weather has offered a bit of a reprieve from the hot conditions we have been experiencing of late. Given the cooler conditions and improved fitness, I was able to join in at the last speedygeese Stromlo session, moving up from being just a stalker. The session was 3 x 1km hard with 1 km jogs in between. To be consistent with my last post, I went with shorter distance repetitions  (3 x 700m) to run for a time similar to what the quicker runners were doing for their full 1km. This worked well and pace was sub 5min/km (it's been a looooong time since I was able to run that pace). The hamstrings continue to behave themselves. They aren't normal, but they also aren't any worse. I can 'feel' them and am mindful of not overstepping what they can tolerate. I think the religious daily isometric exercises help keep them from flaring up.
Focused on the task at hand
The cool weather also made for a good opportunity to try and run a bit quicker at Parkrun. Patience is starting to pay off with more progress towards the sub 25 min goal. A realistic goal for the day was to aim for sub 26 minutes (last best time 26:46 on 13 January). Gungahlin parkrun intermittently has pacer runners and it turned out that today was one of those days. There were both 27 and 25 minute pacers on the course. At the start, the 27 minute pacer was making me nervous as that pace seemed a bit challenging. However, I eventually settled in and found a pace that resulted in me sitting ahead of pacer 27, but tantalisingly close to pacer 25. It didn't take long to recognise that 5 km @ 5min/km pace is not within my current capacity (without risking undoing all the good progress). Therefore, I regained focus on the original day's goal, not pacer 25.  At the end I was pleased to cross the line in 25:41 (25:38 official time). Bring on more cool weather, because it sure does make a difference!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Distance versus duration

Most runners have a strong focus on the distance they run and Garmin (or Strava) syndrome should be in the dictionary! This is all very well, but for the slower recreational runner are we doing ourselves a disservice? Is it worth pounding the pavement (or trails) for more and more kms? Many elite runners do big mileage, but rarely do they include 2+ hour runs or for that matter 3+ hour runs in their training programme. Ultra runners are different, although some train on a pretty low mileage. If increased mileage is required, many run twice in a single day rather than a single long run. Running for long periods takes its toll and it's hard for the body to fully recover. This is not good for training adaptation or for making improvements.
Garmin syndrome - Just a bit further .......

The book by Jack Daniels - Daniels' running formula - is a great little resource and he is quick to point this out (as do other running coaches). For recreational runners, his training plans suggest doing particular distances or duration, whichever is less. It makes sense!

As one continues to slow down, converting recreational duration into elite distance puts things nicely into perspective. So if say the rec runner runs for 90 mins at 6:30min/km pace and covers 13.8 km, a runner running at 4:30km/min pace would cover 20kms. If the rec runner tries to runs 20 kms, it would take 2 hours and 10 mins! That's a lot of extra effort, for no real benefit. The rec runner would effectively be training harder than the elite runner, all for the sake of a magic distance number.

For me, it's pretty simple, train based on duration. If doing intervals run to time not specific distances. If planning a long run set a time not a distance. If you really need the mileage, divide it up and run twice in the day. If done sensibly this approach will result in the right training response with minimal risk of injury or excess fatigue. Long runs will get longer, but duration won't change 😃.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

First post for 2018

Running-wise, the new year started with a parkrun at Gungahlin. It was a Canberra record with 519 attending on the day. Some of those people had also run at Tuggeranong, the one opportunity a year to be able to run two parkruns on the same day.  A group of us followed the run with coffee, the perfect start to 2018. As we enjoyed the morning sunshine, one of my running friends asked me what I'm 'training' for. This is a question that most runners would be able to quickly respond to with various running events/goals for 2018. If only it were that easy! A simple answer is just to be able to keep running. With the old retrospectoscope, it is now easy to see that stopping running and then cycling in 2016 was not a good thing to do. It did not help the hamstrings recover and it wiped out years of cardiovascular fitness.
New year's day parkrun fun with Ewen
 So for 2018 it will be about keeping the balance right as I try to rebuild lost fitness and running capacity. This also includes working with Lex Anderson to improve running form and try and prevent overloading of the hamstrings. Lex knows his stuff and is a pleasure to train with. Time will tell what we will be able to do. Can we keep 5km times moving in the right direction? Today it was under 27 minutes at Ginninderra parkrun (26:46), slowly creeping towards sub 25, but the going sure is tough. Long runs have been slowly improving. Moving at an easy effort is starting to become more achievable and the hamstrings aren't causing significant issues. Heck, I may even be able to join those crazy speedygeese for a (short) long run in the not too distant future! Happy running to all for 2018!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Final post for 2017 - it's all about the hamstrings

There were not a lot of posts in 2017 as there wasn't a lot of running. Here's hoping that trend is reversed in 2018. This hamstring thing seems to be becoming more common, or at least it is becoming more recognised. I know of two female friends now dealing with the frustrations of 'hamstrings from hell.' It will be interesting to watch their progress as they try to find what works best for them. It's such an individual thing and really tests the patience!
Stromlo forest park

It's nice to be back doing a bit of running as it means catching up with many running friends and acquaintances. The speedygeese are now doing a weekly training session at Stromlo. Although intervals are out the question at present, Stromlo is a nice place to jog around while the gaggle does their thing. There is also the wonderful parkrun and the essential post-parkrun coffee with like-minded coffee lovers. Last weekend's parkrun saw a bit more improvement running a 27:05, 20 seconds quicker than the previous effort. It still feels ridiculously hard and the high heart rate says it all. The long road back will need to include plenty of easy runs, especially the long ones. The first 10km run in a long time, was run on Tuesday. The running effort was too hard (damn that Strava segment!), but there is hope for building the mileage. Mental note to self - stay away from Strava segments when doing a long run!

 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Parkrunning progress

It's early days yet, but maybe there's been a bit of progress. Yep the hammies like to niggle quietly in the background, but it continues to be manageable. There is no set training programme other than scheduling when to run and bike; and including the odd parkrun if it's a 'hard' day in the H/E/M scheme of things. Initially parkruns were walk/run/walk affairs, running a sensible pace. Over time, progress means being able to run the whole way. Lost cardiovascular fitness means it feels like it's well and truly back to square one.

Parkrun times have been slowly improving, but are far from previous efforts.













The first four parkruns were all walk/run/walk, the last two were running the whole distance. It's quite interesting to see just a one second difference between the 14/10 and 28/10 events, even though 14/10 included some walking on a harder course. Based on the above rate of improvement (~20 seconds every 6 weeks), maybe a tilt at 25 minutes in September 2018 😜.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

As 2017 draws to an end

The PHT is ever present and likely always will be. That said, I'm back 'running' several times a week and can run continuously for 40 minutes without the need to walk. The goal is to just keep chipping away and 'managing' the PHT. Craig Purdam provided good advice and tools for managing this PHT long term. I'm lucky because it isn't especially painful, just annoying. It's also a bit tricky because it is easy to do a run session and not feel any discomfort, that can happen 24-48 hours later. With that in mind Craig recommended a program of hard/easy/medium; hard/easy/medium. Sometimes back-to-back; sometimes with a rest day between each H/E/M. There is also a comprehensive exercise program that aims at keeping the hammies strong as well as maintaining isometrics ('panadol' for tendinopathies). The lazy glutes also have to do their bit so that less is required of the hammies.

Combined strengthening and 'panadol' for the hamstrings
Latest training:
Monday - rest (morning isometrics)
Tuesday - run 5km (morning isometrics)
Wednesday - cycle 16 km (one way commute to work); gym session (morning isometrics)
Thursday - run 7km (morning isometrics)
Friday - rest (morning isometrics)
Saturday - treadmill run (due to rain) 6.6 km - included a few short intervals at 5min/km pace, which is sadly a rather challenging pace at the moment (morning isometrics)
Sunday - will be either a bike or walk

I've been back to parkrun, taking it easy. It will be interesting to see how long it takes (if ever) to run a full 5km @5 min/km pace!