General Coaching Guidelines
Here is an idea of my, “less, is more” training principles that have worked for me:
- Long recovery periods between key workouts
- Run fast only when motivation is high
- Perform similar workouts week-after-week
- Train for performance — not physiology
Bryan: My First Client
Bryan is a former college athlete (football) who never ran farther than 100 yards until last year. He’s 35 and is beginning to enjoy running. His current middle distance PRs are 20:12 5K and 43:39 10K and he has no desire to race longer distances. He spent the last year doing the run portion of Joe Friel’s triathlete training bible program and is thinking about improving his 5k and 10k in the coming year.
Bryan has recently picked up longer distance running over the past year, and has set impressive times for this 5 and 10k by following the run portion of Joe Friel’s Triathlete Training Bible, and training with a local track club.
Bryan shared his computer screen with me which showed a spreadsheet of detailed workouts he had completed under Friel’s program. We both agreed that Friel’s program was too complicated.
Keep It Simple
My advice was to keep things as simple as possible. Rather than constantly changing Bryan’s workouts, we’d focus on repeating the same workout over the course of several weeks and see how he improves. Only when he hits a plateau will we need to get creative and try new workouts. My “run less” coaching involves pushing your body to the edge during specific workouts, then allowing your body to adapt by giving plenty of recovery.
Focus on Key Workouts
By focusing on specific workouts, that mimic 5 and 10k racing, I’m confident Bryan can improve his times at the 5 and 10k.
Two workouts I recommend over the next two weeks are (Bryan uses everything in metric):
- 8k tempo run @ ~4:18/kilometer
- Start at a pace 15-20 sec per Kilometer slower than you know you can maintain and work your way down to ~4:18 pace if possible. Finish last 400m with a kick if possible.
- 5 x 1k @ ~4:00/kilometer with 75 second recovery
- Start intervals at a pace you know you can maintain, and we’ll eventually be shooting for the ~4:00 per Kilometer
Long Recoveries Between Key Workouts
Give yourself plenty of recovery between these workouts. A minimum of 72 hours. More if necessary. You should only run these workouts when you’re highly motivated and feel that you can smash them. If not motivated or you start the workout and it’s not going well, skip it and just go for an easy 20-40 min run.
On your other days during the week, rest, run easy, or go for a walk – depending on how you feel. Practice listening to your body on recovery days. Everything you do on your recovery days should support your next workout. It’s fine to cross-train, lift weights, but don’t overdo it the day before a key workout.
If you feel really good on a recovery day, add some 100m strides during the middle of your runs or walks.
Train for performance – not physiology
Rather than training to improve a physiologic variable such as VO2 max, lactate threshold, or heart rate, train your body and brain to accept higher levels of discomfort. Running is a whole body activity. Focus on the total body experience.
Bernd Heinrich, who set the 100k World record at age 41, and author of Why We Run, put it this way:
“When running, you are operating a whole machine of an almost incalculable number of parts that are integrated, with no one part taking precedence over any of the others. You can’t just increase one function and expect improved performance. You have to improve all the systems at once to affect the whole.” (Heinrich, Bernd (2008-12-20). Why We Run (p. 73). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)
Perform Similar Workouts Week-After-Week
Do the same workouts prescribed above for 2-3 weeks. This will allow us to see how you are progressing. Did your average time for your 5 x 1k intervals get faster or slower? How are you feeling on your tempo run? Do you need more than 72 hours between workouts?
If you get bored of the same workout, we can changed them slightly to get similar results.
Here are some variations:
- Instead of 8k tempo run, pick 10-15k depending on your mood.
- start slow and gradually increase pace with each Kilometer
- 3 x 2 kilometer with 2 min recovery
Bryan follows a fat and protein centered diet with lots of vegetables, and one banana along with spinach in his post-workout smoothie. I advised him to start adding some safe starches, such as potatoes, white rice, and sweet potatoes. Aim for a minimum of 600 calories from safe carbs on your non-workout days. Add more carb calories on days you run, especially right after your run. Add 2 bananas to your post-workout smoothie, or have a meal that includes safe starches post-run.
Don’t count vegetable carbs towards carb calories. Veggies contain ~80 carb calories per pound, ~40 of those are used to feed bacteria during digestion, which get turned into short chain fats. Additional calories are needed to break down vegetables in the gut, so their carb count is almost nothing.
Carbs have several uses in the body; they nourish neurons, they provide an alternative fuel other than fat in the muscles, they help build extracellular matrix, they create reactive oxygen species for immune support, they help rejuvenate joint fluid, and repair cartilage, and they create mucous for our mucous membranes.
If you limit your carbs, the body will put off some of the long-term repair such as creating mucous, and rebuilding cartilage.
As a coach, I am here to give support and encourage you in your running journey. Making improvements in running can be mentally challenging. It requires that you dig deep on certain workouts. Sometimes you improve in fits and starts.