“It’s just a case of understanding what is required and discipline yourself to do it.”
- Arthur Lydiard
The above quoted haunted me during the latter years of my injury-plague – when I’d usually only train 6-7 weeks at a time before getting another injury, a few weeks or months off and then would try to get back to fitness. This pattern repeated itself year after year.
Then I thought about what Lydiard’s quote really means and the key clause: “what is required” (to achieve your goals). I realised straight away that what I needed was consistency, then quantity of training and that the first step was to never again develop a chronic injury and to develop the ability to manage and remove niggles almost instantly – within 24 to 48 hours ideally. Over my journey it emerged that first I would need to perfect my movement and only then condition myself.
Focusing on the 80/20
In my review of 2013, I mentioned that job commitments forced me to take a step back from racing. The bonus was it allowed me to focus what energy I had for training into achieving the minimum required movement for the job. 2012 had been a nice “pre-test” with many personal bests and a strong racing season. But I had still raced with the “crutch” (my cushioned shoes). In the second half of 2012 and 2013, I managed to put my crutch aside and walk and run without it again. You could say that circumstance helped me focus on the most important aspect of my “running fitness” – the 20% of the Pareto equation – the technique.
Some runners would go and “test a new pair of shoes”. As 2014 dawned on me I knew I had to hit the ground running and “test my new technique”. The question was: “Could I now begin to achieve the quantity of training required for my ambitions?” I am sure I am not the only runner to ask himself that question.
The last 3-4 weeks have provided strong proof that the answer is an overwhelming “yes, you’re almost there”:
- 20 consecutive days of running 1 hour or more per day. 32 consecutive days running (100% of days versus 77% of days in 2013)
- An average of 101 km and 9.5 hours of running per week in 2014 (up from 42 km and 4.1 hours in 2013)
- An average daily run of 14.75km and an average daily training volume of 85 minutes (up from 6 km and 35 min average in 2013)
- No niggles, pains or injuries. No excessive lingering fatigue (as in 2013)
- Training performance improving weekly (as in 2013)
- I look forward to the majority of runs, work harder before and after runs and feel better most days
- 100% of kilometres run in VivoBarefoot shoes
I solve any issues I encounter at the moment on my own as I go. There’s a great feeling of satisfaction in this independence.
What else did I discover? First of all that “Lydiard would say I am unfit”, as we like to joke at ChampionsEverywhere whenever someone comes with any kind of excuse about why they can’t run faster or longer.
Keeping it altogether
When you spend 1.5 years focusing on technique you invariably lose some of the physical conditioning. But there are good news: I find it returning at an accelerated rate. The last time I put together this time of training volume I was at the peak of my physical powers – in terms of running specific fitness (cardiovascular and local muscular endurance) – this time I am not, yet have no problems transitioning straight into 100 km weeks. Two weeks from now I’ll spend 7 days in Portugal for a training holiday (and some location scouting for ChampionsEverywhere). After that I will consider my 6 weeks of “pre-conditioning” at an end and I will expect to be able to attack my training with more aggressive paces – being prepared for the higher forces involved in faster running.
The first major milestone of the year will be to put together a flawless week consisting of at least 9.5 hours of running at an average pace of 4:32 min/km pace. Once I can do this I know I am strong enough in all aspects of my conditioning to take the next step upwards in racing performance and begin to chase PBs again. Normally I have a strict time-table but this year I keep it somewhat flexible initially until I can see how rapid my improvement is from week to week.
In the next instalment of looking ahead I’ll talk about how I plan to put things together and move forward with my physical conditioning without throwing away or neglecting the hard won technical skills.