- Pre-training carbohydrates to ensure you are appropriately fuelled, especially for those long or intense sessions.
- Hydration before, during and after training. Need I say more.
- Post-training replenishment in the form of carbohydrates and protein, ideally in the 30 minutes post-training.
- Protein for good recovery. We all get caught up on carbohydrates and fueling the body for training, but we shouldn't overlook the importance of daily protein intake for recovery.
It's not something most human beings would give a moment of consideration to, that it is actually possible to be living for years in a state of constant betterment. To consider that you are better today than you were yesterday or a year ago, and that you will be better still tomorrow or next week or at tournament time your senior year. That if you're doing it right you are an organism constantly evolving toward some agreed-upon approximation of excellence. Wouldn't that be at least one definition of a spiritual state?
When I was a runner it was something we lived every second of our lives. It was such a part of us that if we had ever given it any thought, it would have been a mental lapse, a sign of weakness. Of course I am getting better every day, I would have said, what the hell am I training for otherwise? As if there were only one alternative, as if the arrow of improvement necessarily parallels the arrow of time, and in only one direction.
You might say that we're just talking about an artifact of youth. That when you're young it is only natural to grow larger and stronger, to learn things, to master more and more of the skills and techniques of life, to get better, to improve.
If that's true then how do we end up with so many monsters, trolls, dickheads, and pyschopaths? So many Pol Pots, Joe McCarthys, Ted Bundys, and Lee Harvey Oswalds? Or Nixons for that matter? They were all young once and relatively harmless, and in a better universe they would have stayed that way.
Or consider the religious aesthete whose piety and serenity and good works increase and multiply as the years go by, into middle age, into old ago, onto the deathbed. She's working on it too, and what keeps her going is the absolute conviction that every day she's getting better, saving more souls, that she's getting closer to God.
My point is that this way of living that we once took for granted isn't necessarily a "natural" process at all. It's not like water flowing down to the sea, not like aging. It takes effort, determination, conviction. But mostly it takes will. It takes a conscious decision to follow one difficult uphill path, and then the will to stay with it and not waver, to not give up.
Our fellow students at Southeastern back then, all twenty-five thousand of them, were getting better some days and worse some days, and they were doing so at different things and at different times. There were athletes in other sports who had better sophomore years than they had junior years. There were athletes who were better in high school than they would ever be in college. There were some who were good or at least average students when they arrived and then discovered beer or the opposite sex or both and were never good at anything else in their lives. Generally speaking, most of them probably knew more when they left than when they arrived, but then again what they ended up knowing might have been wrong.
I'm not saying that we ourselves did not have setbacks, doldrums, bad luck, and reversals of all kinds. We got sick and we got hurt, certainly, often because of our quest. We got waylaid and distracted by fads, false idols, wars, and rumors of wars. I'm not saying we weren't human in every way you can be human. I'm just saying that all things being equal, by and large each and every day we were getting better at that one singularly difficult task and goal we had set for ourselves.
And I'm also saying that win, lose, or draw, just being involved in such an undertaking was itself ennobling. It was an uplifting enterprise that we all intuitively understood to be such, and I now know that almost incidentally the spiritual force of our effort created a slipstream that drew all else in our lives along with it and made us better in other ways as well. Better, happier, more complete human beings than we would have been otherwise.
And Andrea, I missed all that. The arrow of my life was going one direction one day, another direction another day. I had people who thought I was wonderful when I won their appeal, or secured custody of their child, and I had legatees who hated me because they didn't end up quite as rich as they thought they would. Some of it is satisfying, some interesting, but precious little is in the least bit ennobling.
This is not ennui, not nostalgia. I am not numb or jaded. I've had revelations in deep waters and gone all light and airy inside listening to good music made by friends. I appreciate things, I really do. I can be made happy on a cloudy day by as little a thing as a stray sunbeam on a branch of elkhorn coral. All of that. I've been blessed and blessed and blessed and only a scoundrel and ingrate would complain about any of it and I'm certainly not doing that.
But still, I miss the spiritual certainty in the direction of that arrow. And when recently I looked around and saw people in my life dying of natural and unnatural causes it occurred to me that I myself would not live forever and that I had long ago given up the certainty of that arrow before I had to. It also occurred to me that I had a little bit of time left to reclaim it. To be a runner again, to know precisely what it is I'm trying to accomplish every day. It won't be the same, I know. It can't be. But it can be something."
If you haven't read John L Parker's cult classic Once a Runner, or its equally good sequel Again to Carthage, then I suggest making this a high priority as they are books that every runner will enjoy.
- Running hard when it isn't scheduled will not help you achieve your goals. And in some cases will be a step backwards.
- There are times when you need to run hard, and times when you shouldn't.
- You don't improve over the course of weeks. More so, to really become a runner it takes years of hard work.
- It requires dedication, motivation and sacrifice to stick with it for years and work towards your goals.
As part of work, I regularly deal with new technologies to assist sporting performance. Over the years I have tried many different methods of measuring running speed/distance, from a unit around my waist that worked like a speed camera to see how fast I was moving in relation to surrounding objects right through to current technologies (by the way, the waist mounted speed sensor wasn't great, especially around passing traffic). However it is the technology that I am going to mention today that makes me most excited as not only does it offer the most accurate means so far, but it is a rather ingenious use of technology packaged into a small and well priced unit.
As I have stated previously in this blog, I am not a big fan of GPS for running. The foot pod offers a cheaper, smaller and less energy hungry method of measuring speed to the same accuracy as GPS. For example, my 9 gram Suunto foot pod is generally 1% off when doing 1km repeats.
However, I also acknowledge that many runners believe that GPS is the superior method and it offers the obvious benefit of mapping. It is this popularity that has resulted in Suunto developing it's new Ambit heart rate monitor (or training computer when you see all the functions it has). Personally, I don't see inbuilt GPS as being overly exciting but what I am really excited about in the new Ambit is that the inbuilt GPS is combined with an inbuild accelerometer. One of the major issues with GPS is their accuracy in a watch as small as they are and the arm is continually moving meaning the GPS is far from ideal. Additionally the smaller the GPS, the less the signal strength and thus the greater drop outs. By intergrating the accelerometer, the watch can then smooth out these errors as it knows the arm movements and is far more sensitive to rapid speed change. All sounds good, right? But now comes the really exciting bit.....
When the GPS signal is poor, the accelerometer can take over and provide speed measurements on it's own. So the accelerometer in the watch is not only correcting the GPS but offering to ensure good accuracy even when the GPS signal is lost.
The Australian release of the Ambit is expected next week and I am very excited to try it and see if it lives up to all these promises. Currently I use my T6d daily and love it, so the Ambit looks like a super powered T6 with all its extra features.
If this post is of interest, you may also like this YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCpOK0L8o5E
It has been almost a year since the last blog post. For the majority of that time, I have been keen to write a post, but have simply struggled with time. So here, I am again with the aim of getting more regular in 2012.
In this first post back I want to discuss the pre-season training approach for a marathon runner. By pre-season, I prefer to that period more than 3-4 months out from your next marathon (we will focus on this period later). We are now in February and while there are some early season marathons in April, as a general rule, most marathons are later in the year. Yet, we get inspired over the Christmas period and start focussing on running a marathon PB. This inspiration leads to a spike in motivation which in turn leads to us getting out there for long weekend runs, extra volume during the week and dreams of great marathon times.
The problem is we are possibly still 6+ months out from our goal marathon and all this work in the short term will probably do us more harm than good when it comes to marathon performance. Quality long runs of 2 hours or more are demanding on the body; therefore our body can only tolerate a certain number of them. Additionally, they are mentally draining, requiring motivation, focus and the ability to push through those hours of hurt. So if our bodies and mind only have a certain number of good long runs per year, why are we wasting them so early in our preparation? They will likely lead to an increase risk of injury, reduced motivation by the time the key training period come around, and possibly fatigue which will hamper our preparation closer to the marathon.
So what is the best approach? We are still 6 months out from the race and we are ultra keen to train, so what should we be doing?
I recommend that during this pre-season period, you aim to race some shorter races, maybe 5-10km, with the aim of getting in some good shape for these. Thus the focus becomes on improving your speed through intensity work, while not focussing on volume. This will allow you to be motivated and physically ready to step it up in those final 3-4 months pre-marathon. Additionally, this approach of developing speed and then building your volume on top has been shown to be effective. Traditionally called reverse periodisation, it is becomes more of a common practice in modern training.
So your training during this pre-season period might include sessions like:
- Long runs of 100-120 minutes - giving you a good base to build to the marathon later.
- Short intervals - this could come in the form of 1-3 minute efforts, or track work of 400-1000m efforts. Aiming for an intensity around 3-5km race pace and having short recoveries between efforts. In total, 15-20 minutes of hard running would be the maximum recommended.
- Longer intervals - the idea of the longer intervals is to sustain a speed at close to your half marathon pace. At times you might be a bit quicker than this but never quicker than 10km race pace. These are the early stages of tempo sessions which will be the backbone of your marathon training, however at this early stage, we only want 20-25min of total running at this speed. So something like 2 x 10-12 minute efforts are ideal.
- A range of moderate intensity aerobic running to pad out the rest of the week. We probably don't want a third intensity session at this point so any extra running can be aerobic sessions.
- Injury prevention sessions - you arn't going to be in good shape if you are injured, so aim to include 2-3 weekly injury prevention sessions (core stability, flexibility and specific strength work).
So in summary, this is an important part of your marathon preparation, not just because of what you can gain but also because of what you can lose if it is done incorrectly.