TRAINING: My Programmes

I've uploaded my Training Programmes for April-October for viewing (on the My Documents link on the right, or click here).

How To Read
These are generally the fruits of Emma Cutts' (of the Peak Centre red.) imagination, and you will notice that the programme is not based on mileage, as most, but on time vs. intensity. The training programme itself is on page 6 and 7, while the rest is composed of my physical test results (less interesting for the majority, I would imagine).

AT1-40' means: Run forty minutes in your Aerobic Threshold 1 (currently 144-158 for me, but this changes all the time, so regular retesting is essential for this kind of training).

I hope the programmes are useful inspiration for runners and coaches out there, or at least can incite some debate (there can never be enough off that surrounding training methods).

The programmes are not presented 100% as Emma envisioned them, though, but includes the detours and changes I have made or have had to make. Sometimes a race comes along that I just can't resist (this happens too often!), I miss a training session because of private circumstances and the like (annoying stuff like work), or I get injured.

The Training Programme also comes with a warning from Emma about "taking a day off if you feel you need it".

The Purpose
The April-June programmes were designed around addressing my problem of blowing up on the hills. Basically, I was your classical fun-runner, large AT1 zone, but extremely narrow high intensity zones due to lack of exposure to fast running. I had one advantage going for me, though, which was a unusually broad lower zone, apparently

July focused on getting me ready for Snowdon while August was a transition period into the marathon training that you can see in Sep-Oct.

Not Yet Hill-Training
May-July are not proper training programmes, though, as Emma had to cope with me doing an inordinate amount of races, or as she said: "I can't really do any work on you, except just keep you level."

Sep and Oct again have focused on the "marathon malarchy" as Emma puts it, so only from November onwards will the training programmes be tailored directly at Cross-Country/Hill Running. We will run this as a long intensive Winter Training Cycle running from Nov-Mar/April, so these programmes should be much more useful for hill runners than the previous (take a look nevertheless!), as much of my training so far has been working slightly against the type of running that I do most instead of vice-versa.

Strategy and Planning
The precise planning for next season is something Emma and I will sit down after the marathon and have a few long chats about. What we do is, we try and tailor a three year plan targetted at bringing me to a level of fitness that will be sufficient for the Danish Athletics Association (Dansk Atletik Forbund or DAF) to consider me as a candidate for the currently non-existant Danish hill-running team for the Europeans and Worlds.

This three year plan may well be extended to a five-year plan if progress is slower than expected but still steady enough to keep going. If I am not close to an acceptable speed by that time, we are going to change strategy and "re-build" me around longer runs, shifting my focus to compete in races that are, in some way less elite, but more spectacular, such as Everest Marathon, Pike's Peak etc.

For anyone's planning, I think it's important to have such "fall-backs". You can say, in this way, I can't truly fail, only perform tactical retreats and attack the problem from new angles.

To get the attention of the DAF, we will pursue a strategy of results improvement, meaning, I'll start targetting races a bit more precisely, particularly races with strong competition (such as Snowdon), then compile results over a number of years, and send them to the DAF.

We are hoping that if we can show a steady improvement from year to year, we can attract enough attention. I think it's a daring plan, perhaps overly ambitious, but given that I'm late starter, and will most likely mature unusually late for a runner, I think it deserves a shot before it's discarded as a pipe dream.

For the Irish Runners the situation is obviously slightly more straightforward as there are official Trial races to get into the Europeans and the Worlds, and personally I'd be curious to see the different approaches to "peaking" at these events that are used by runners such as Barry, Ronan, Colm etc.

Personal Coaching
I can't emphasise enough how invaluable I think it is that you have someone to take care of you personally. Listens to all your questions, gives you constant feedback and encouragement etc. If you have the slightest suspicion that you would like such "man-marking", I say go for it. Shell out the extra money for personal coaching. It's well worth it, and nothing motivates more than knowing you are letting someone down if you take a day off.

There is a strong element of comfort in this as well. When you have someone watching you above all others (a thing club coaches can only offer to a limit, given they have many athletes to look after, and will often, for strategic reasons, need to give more attention to the already established elite during training sessions), I believe it provides a strong sense of certainty (no training is wasted/wrong).

Emma is good at making her clients feel like this is "our project" and that not completing it would be a disappointment. This infectious enthusiasm is something that keeps me going every day, and how many of you out there have ever wanted the answer to the question that Emma and I are now trying to answer through this "scientific experiment": "Can you turn an average-sedentary Joe into an elite runner?"

"Coaching is an Art not a Science," says Lindie, and I can't completely refute that point, but suspect it's a little bit of both at this time and age. At the end of the day, though, Muhamed Ali said it better than anyone:

Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.

Not being a coach myself, this is as much input as I can offer currently, on training and methods, so with that quote, it's time to say goodnight...