As 2009 wraps up, some of us are busy reflecting on all that 2009 brought, others are busy making New Year's resolutions, and all of us are bracing ourselves for the sudden influx of exercise newbies that are about to descend on our gyms, interrupting our well-established routines. (Don't worry. They will disappear again, just as suddenly and mysteriously as they arrived, leaving nothing more than a few humorous Gym Carny* posts in their wake).
But even if you're not the "Year-In-Review" or "New Year's Resolution" type, you have to admit that a new year is sort of a handy milestone. And 2010 isn't just any new year- it's the start of a whole new decade. So it seems as good a time as any to stop and reflect on our commitment to living healthy lives, to formulate and/or refine our goals, and to reacquaint ourselves with those basic truths that we may "know" but that we tend to forget.
In that spirit, for the last couple of weeks I've been focused on what did and didn't work well for me in my last training cycle, and making the appropriate adjustments for 2010.
Out With Some Old (Kind of)
24 Week Training Cycles
I firmly believe (a la Jack Daniels) that 24 weeks is the optimal length training cycle for any distance race (5K - Marathon). Having said that, I've learned first hand that the higher the level your fitness is coming into a training plan, the shorter the training cycle should be. This year, I plan on maintaining a high level of aerobic fitness and leg speed year-round, so that 12-16 weeks should be the maximum length of time I need to prepare for a marathon.
In With Some New (An Experiment of One)
Perhaps it's age, but I've found that towards the end of my marathon program, when the tempo and marathon pace runs get longer and longer, I just don't recover sufficiently. Intuition tells me that doing a Mixed Interval track workout, along with a long tempo run (9 miles) and a long MP run (13-14 miles) in the peak weeks of training leaves me with not enough recovery in between to maximize the results of each workout type. Obviously, each type of workout is valuable, but if I had to give one up, I'd say that tempo and MP runs win out over mixed intervals. For my next marathon, I'm adopting a (Brad Hudson) plan that focuses on 2 key workouts a week (2 types of long runs and tempo runs) instead of 3 and incorporates 10 x 100 meter strides after an easier run each week.
I've decided to enter the world of Ultra's this year.. by running my first 50K race.
Keep The Good Stuff (Duh!)
This falls into the category of "basic truths we know but tend to forget". As I tweak my training to meet my next goal, every change I make will be evaluated against the "fundamentals" standard.
I still believe that overall training volume is the best predictor of performance. More important than the length of the longest run you do or even the amount of high intensity training you do is the total amount of time you spend training week in and week out. Towards that end, I will continue to push my peak weekly mileage number upwards.
Even though endurance training promotes leanness, the modern lifestyle (inactivity and diet)works against it. Since my best performance will come when I am both my fittest and leanest, I will continue to work towards bringing my overall lifestyle into alignment with my training goals. More precisely, I will become a lean, mean racing machine.
Recovery runs must be the best thing I learned about and implemented this year. I will spare you the details (for now) but recovery runs are the runner's best kept secret.
Running Specific Strength Training
This is a must-do, if you want to stay injury free. With increased mileage comes increased risk of injury, so working to correct muscle imbalances and improving the stability of your joints is kind of like injury insurance. Only better.
* = Gym carnies is an irregular series about the curious characters and intriguing individuals that people sRod's gym.