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Rhythm of Training

Running the hills of Grandview last night, I couldn’t help but think of the rhythm of our training season. At times you can see the city skyline, but of course it disappears at the bottom, only to reappear at the top. The rhythm of running hills is soothing. The push and increased heart rate up, the speed and ease on the way down are exhausting and exhilarating.  Similarly, so is the training cycle.  There is a definite rhythm to training.  Many call it structure and that is of course accurate, but structure is set up by the science of training.  Rhythm speaks to the feel.

If you are following my schedules on CapitalCityHalfMarathon.com you are all too familiar with the structure: Saturday long runs, Sunday active recovery/rest, Monday moderately long run, Tues off, Wed medium run or speedwork (intermediate group), Thurs short easy, Fri off, then repeat.  It may seem random, but it is all specific and for a reason.  The goal is to stress your body in specific ways on certain days, then recover from that stress.  Then we do it again, again, again.  We get stronger throughout the season.  There is science, experience, and a lot of obsessing about just how much we can ask of ourselves in training without asking too much or too little.  Goal is to get everyone to the starting line AND the finish line healthy, always.

A wonderful side effect of all that structure is the rhythm.  Our bodies and minds crave routine.  Have you ever noticed that as much as we anticipate a vacation and need the break, we often look forward to getting back to our schedule?  I have no data or research papers to quote.  I was originally trained as a chemist; in the sciences we need data and analysis to back up statements.  I have become an engineer and again we need data, analysis, statistics.  However, the longer one does something the more tuned in we become to our intuition.  Call it experience or whatever, my boss calls it engineering intuition.  I think that’s what is going on here.  The rhythm of training, sore muscles, recovery, training, etc. becomes part of our lives.  We need it or crave it just like that morning cup of coffee.  Could we do without it?  Absolutely, but we might feel “off” throughout the day.  I don’t have research to point to, but in my gut I know it is true.  What was once hard like speedwork on Wed evening and then having to get up and run a 30 minute recovery run, has simply become routine.  We feel better because we do it.

We are coming into the last month of training.  We are used to the rhythm and we are good at it now.  This what my friend and head coach of CERC, Teri calls “The Monster Month.”  It is indeed the month where our mileage peaks, both on the long runs and throughout the week.  It should not be scary because you have done the work leading up to it.  Each week is only slightly longer than the previous weeks.  However, it should not be taken lightly.  Respect the mileage and what you are asking of your body.  Fuel it with proper nutrition and hydrate appropriately.  Sleep.  Rest on your rest days, now is not the time to take up a new sport.  You can do that in late May!  Feel the rhythm and enjoy it.  We will shake it up again a little bit two weeks before your race, when we begin the taper phase.  I’ll cover that later;  the routine will be the same but the amount of running will be dramatically reduced.

Enjoy your last few weeks of training.  Now is the time where the fitness gains start becoming apparent.  Weekday runs are more enjoyable AND the thermometer reads above freezing!  I cannot wait to celebrate with you all on May 3rd!

Happy Training!

Long Runs are Dress (and nutrition) Rehearsals

Wow we are 7 weeks from race week!  That means we only have a few more long runs left in our training schedules.  Our workouts are all important to our fitness, but its the long ones where we really start to understand our progress.  Throughout the season, we go from thinking that 13.1 is REALLY far, to wow that’s only 1 more mile than last week!  The long runs prepare our bodies and minds for race day.  But they can be so much more than that too.  Start thinking about your long runs over the next 6 weeks or so as dress rehearsals.  They are the events where we can practice what we will put in, on, and around our bodies on race day.  Then the endurance athlete’s mantra will become your own “nothing new on race day!”

What to Wear

Figure out now what works and what doesn’t as far as gear goes.  I realize that a Saturday in March might call for tights, a hat, and long sleeves while in May you might choose shorts and a singlet.  However, try to find a couple long runs to wear what you will on race day, from head to toe.  Now is the time to find out that your cute polka dot singlet chafes your arms, NOT at mile 10 on race day.  You still have time to sort it out or find a different outfit!  Most importantly, figure out your shoes and socks soon.  My last post on running shoes and socks discusses how to find your race shoes.  The most important thing is to try them out on a long run and make sure they work for you.

What to Eat and Drink

Even more than what you wear on race day, what you choose to put into your body is best determined beforehand.  This takes some trial and error for people, so start now.  We need to be fueling our bodies throughout the week with high quality nutrition.  We need carbohydrates to move (to live really but we’re talking about running here).  We’ve all heard about the pre-race pasta parties, but you don’t want to do that for the first time the night before Cap City.  Use your long runs to mimic everything you are going to eat and drink starting the day before.  Work out what your night before dinner will be, your breakfast, what you carry with you, etc.  If you haven’t yet tried consuming Gatorade or a gel like Gu, now is the time to start.  It might take a few attempts to figure out what works for you.  If you need more information on WHAT to eat and when for long runs, check on my blog from last year on Eating on the Run.

Have a great week, enjoy the sunshine.  Happy Training!