It’s been a long summer break for me – from writing, not from running – and I suspect that this applies to a good many readers, faced with the demands of holiday travel and coping with families.When you get back into the routine, it is essential to include your running in the plan, even if it a mere token shuffle to start with. We should draw some inspiration from Mo Farah’s performances on the track this year.
The most common mistake is to get out on the first fine weekend in September, enthused with ideas of “getting really fit this year” and running too far too soon. If you have done very little through August, then start with 10 or 15 miles in the first week back and increase gradually. My rule is to up the mileage by no more than 5miles a week at the most. If you have any doubt about the way your body is adjusting, repeat each week before moving up to a higher mileage. If you increase a little each week it will be no time before you are running the 30 miles a week you need for a decent 10K, or the 40 miles a week you need for a half-marathon.
Not all miles are the same. As you get fitter and find that a five mile run is not taking too much out of you, you have to look for ways of getting more out of the time available. You can start with some Fartlek (Swedish for ‘Speed-play’) - doing a fast burst for 30 seconds or a minute, then jogging along until you feel like another burst.
The next thing is structured Fartlek, doing 1 minute fast, 2 minutes slow, five or six times during your run. The next step is ‘Pyramids’, where the bursts get longer – 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute. The recovery might start off as : ‘recovery time equals running time ‘ and then get shorter, so that you have only a minute’s recovery after each fast run.
By this time you are in fact doing interval training. In order to measure your progress and give a bit more motivation, you should try the interval training on a track, as I suggested in my previous piece. You can then move up to putting in more ‘quality’ sessions and fewer easy runs into your week. One has to complete a normal week to find a balance between hard days and recovery days. For the average guy or girl, two hard days, two steady runs, one long run and two rest days, with a total of at least thirty miles, would be a decent week. If you add onto this three ten-minute sessions a week or strengthening and flexibility exercises, or one gym session a week, then you will retain a strong all-round muscular body.
Personally, I don’t recommend spending a lot of time in the weights room if your main goal is to be a better distance runner. However if your goal is to achieve all-round fitness, then gym work will give you this, but it won’t necessarily make you a faster runner. If your ambitions are to be as good a runner as you can be, then you have to think of running many more miles – 50, 60 or 70 miles a week – but always increase gradually – and keep taking your Orbana!
Next week – towards the autumn marathon.
Best of luck,