Did you know that the way that you structure your running week can have a huge impact on the improvements you make, your capacity to avoid injury and maximise enjoyment?! You are probably well aware of the ‘periodising’ concept, which is understood to be the way that you structure your training loads (volume/distance, speeds/intensity, recovery, etc) over the year to peak for a specific event. But I find that often we don’t break that concept down to the weekly unit. We will talk more about the yearly structure in a future post, but for now I wanted to address the smaller weekly ‘unit’ which will be very easy for you to modify and maximise your gains.
You will be amazed how often I hear this from people when they tell me about their weekly running: “I don’t have a lot of time during the week, so I get in a couple of 5km runs before work, and then I do my long 10km run on the weekend”. Often those two 5km runs are at the same speed, and around the same route. And then we DOUBLE the training load for that weekend run. This can be a quite a large jump! So while there is a bit of variety going from the shorter runs to the longer one, we can do a lot better than this!
“Variety is a key to minimising injury and maximising improvements”
Minimising injury: The best predictor of a future injury is a past injury – and this is where the right health professional as a part of your team is soooo important – to develop a tailored re/pre-habilitation program for you! The next best predictor of injury, in my opinion, is high repetition of loads. By this I mean applying very similar forces, over and over, to the same body structures… hmmm… sounds a lot like running doesn’t it?? running at similar speeds (maybe your constant 5min/km) on the same surface (the roads around your house), in the same shoes, for the same distance, is a pretty good recipe for an injury.
Maximising improvements: The body improves by having to adapt to new stimuli. If we don’t challenge the body in new and different ways, it sits on a plateau. A key concept in training is progressive overload. You slowly and periodically increase your training loads; be it by increasing speeds, distances, reducing breaks, etc. (again, more on this in our upcoming post on periodising).
So how do we put all this together? here are a few points to help you plan your week’s training:
- Vary your running distances during the week. Program your distances to cover a good spectrum. So, for example, instead of doing your 20kms for the week as per the example above (5+5+10), a better spread could be 3km + 7km + 10km.
- Vary your speeds. For example, in the structure suggested above, the 10km run could be your easy long run, at a comfortable pace (perhaps at or just over your average 5min/km pace); the 7km run could be broken up into some threshold intervals (or quicker). For example, you could warm up and cool down for a kilometre each, and then alternate a faster kilometre, with a slower kilometre, for the middle 5kms; and the 3km run could be an easy spin of the legs! This way not only are you providing variety, but also starting to work on different components of your fitness!
- Change the surfaces you run in. Try to run in different environments. For example, one of your runs could be on roads, your faster interval session could be around a gravel path, and ideally one of your runs (even if not weekly) should be on trails. Trail running provides great variety through constantly changing surfaces, as well as inclines, no two steps ever look the same!
- Ideally change the shoes you run in. While we all have our preferred shoes, it is also a great idea to vary these. So you may have a pair of trail running shoes, your preferred longer distance shoes, and maybe a slightly lighter show for your speed work. This will be more expensive to start off with, but they will all last you longer afterwards!
If you need any more specific help structuring your program, I’d love to help. You can contact me here!
Let me start my clarifying that I would never want to discourage anyone from running! Even more so if you are on a journey to improve your health. My whole business and life mission is to help others achieve great health! And this is exactly why I don’t think it is a great idea to use running to start getting fit or lose weight…. as I mentioned in our introductory post to this series, running is inherently hard, and carries with it about a 50% chance of giving you an injury in a year! What I really want to help you do is to LOVE running!
I don’t think it is a great idea to use running to start getting fit or lose weight.
Lets face it, doing anything while we are heavier is harder, and the harder it is, the less likely we are to do it long term. In addition, being heavier would logically put greater stress on joints, connective tissue and muscles. Interestingly, research doesn’t strongly support this logic. Body Mass Index is not a predictor for injuries, other than plantar fasciitis (an injury to the connective tissues of the sole of the foot). However, poor body condition is a strong predictor of injury, so if we have gained weight due to not doing much, then lets make sure we approach this well.
I would recommend that we start to improve our conditioning to run in a few different ways. Firstly, looking at our nutritional intake is KEY. The most effective way to lose weight is to improve what we eat! If you are brand new to running, I would start by walking daily. A quick walk before and after work, or during lunchtimes will go a long way to start strengthening those tissues mentioned above, help with weight loss, and start to get your aerobic fitness going! I would then definitely add strengthening exercises, as we know that these will certainly protect you against injury, and increase your running efficiency – now we are talking! Then we can start to add a few jogs into those walks, or as part of your warm up and cool downs around your strength work outs. In our next post I’ll give you some ideas on how to start your actual running program.
Effects of weight on performance
I am always amazed at the effect that weight has on running performance. That is, how quickly you are likely to run a race… This is why elite distance runners are so light! For example, Lets assume that an 80kg male completes a 10km run in 50minutes. If his fitness and all other external conditions remain the same, but he now weighs 70kg, he would run those 10kms in under 45mins!
So, don’t run to get fit, as it’s less likely to last! Run because of everything you get from it… of course fitness will be a part of that, as weight loss will be, but there’s so much more to be gained from your time out in nature!
Today we start a new blog series, one very close to our heart. We strongly believe that running, and especially running trails, is one of the most beautiful expressions of a body that functions well. And so to get the most out of this beautiful activity, you need to make sure that your body is up to it!
Don’t run to get fit, but get fit to run!
This is a mantra that we believe in strongly. It really annoys me when I see posts on social media promoting running as a way to get fit… why? If we are honest, we know that running is an inherently hard activity to do. In fact, it’s one of the activities with the highest metabolic demands out there, primarily because your whole body is working while you ‘pound the ground’, only to be outdone in ‘aerobic’ demand by cross country skiing. We also know that over 50% of runners will get injured any given year!
So if you are unfit and deconditioned, running is not going to be an enjoyable activity at all! Needless to say, this is going to severely affect your chance of sticking to it. So we focus a lot of our professional work-time helping people get ready to run and make the most of it. Because when you are fit to run, you won’t want to stop!
So, every week we will release a new instalment to this series focusing on the many different aspects that can help you get the most out of your running, including:
- The effects of weight on joint loading and running time
- How to structure your weekly running to avoid injury and maximise enjoyment and gains
- How to program towards your event
- The importance of your running technique – is it capacity or skill?
- Myths and tips
- Does your Foot strike matter
- Cadence and the effects of modifying it
- The key areas of your body to focus on for improved running
- Feet and ankles – mobility and strength
- Knees – capacity to absorb gravity!
- Hips and pelvis – stable for power transfer
- Rib cage – a shock absorbing spring ad rotational controller!
- Arms – swinging for power, efficiency and direction
- Head – your rudder to success!
Plus I’m sure other topics will spring up as we hear your comments and questions!
In addition, we’d love to invite you to our online running community on Facebook – The iNform Running Studio where we can have discussions, Q&As, and we’ll share regular video clips with ‘live’ running tips while we hit trails!
Looking forward to chatting with you as we evolve this series. If you would like to have a more specific look at your running or discuss your training etc, feel free to contact us!
Ok, a true behind the scenes post coming up. I promised that this series was going to be a “warts and all” look at my training journey. So here’s the first big wart!
I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to this… but this morning I really didn’t want to get on my bike. In fact, when I saw that it was raining, and obviously “unsafe” for me to be riding through the hills, a bit of a weight lifted off my shoulders… “WHAAAAAT??” but I love riding my bike. In fact, that’s all you hear from me on Facebook, right?
Well, it’s true. I certainly do love riding my bike, and when I’m out there, there’s very few places I’d rather be. What I have worked out though, is that I’m a bit too competitive for my own good. And this translates into knowing that every time I go out there, I’ll want to ride harder and faster than the previous time. And sometimes I just don’t look forward to that pain… It’s not unusual for me to dry-retch (sorry about the details!) at the top of a hill. And this is not because I’m too unfit to get up it, as I could certainly easily spin the legs up most climbs in Adelaide… it’s the fact that I feel I need to get a PB (personal best) time every single time!
This is not a good place to be on two counts:
- It’s unrealistic to expect that every single session (of anything!) is going to be a ‘best ever’ session! This applies to the intensity of it, the speed of it, or even the enjoyment of whatever it is you are doing.
- I don’t want to lose the joy, and the WHY I do what I do.
How to avoid that mental ‘overtraining’
So, to be clear, the issue is not that I was physically dreading the ride, but rather, mentally ‘pre-fatigued.’ While this concept is not new to me, and one I have been working on personally and have coached others through, today it really hit me that I have let it get away from me. So, here are a few things I plan to do, and if this resonates with you too, hopefully this also gives you a strategy:
- Firstly, I need to focus on the WHY: I train primarily because I love the feeling of exercise – of being outdoors and feeling my body working.
- The second reason why I train is that I enjoy the feeling of being fit and healthy. There are no medals or million dollar contracts at the end of this. It is simply for my well being.
- Considering the point above, constantly pushing oneself is never a good thing for health. It drains the body, it creates hormonal stress and increases the chances of injury and illness. I know this… so I just need to coach myself through it!
- I need to learn to just head out, be it running or riding, and get back to the joy of movement. Part of this is to disconnect myself from the tools that tell me how fast I’m going and how hard I’m working! While numbers are a good thing, and they help plan training in a clever and scientific way, they also need to allow for ‘easy days’. My best way to achieve that is to leave my GPS watch at home!
- I need to remember that everything needs cycles (not the bike kind! haha!), but waves and rhythms of work and play, challenge and recovery. This applies to life in general as well as physical training.
- Lastly, I will take advantage of ‘variety’. So to break the mental burden of riding today, I will go to the gym and do a mixed session, which will provide variety to mind and body.
Ahhhh… I feel better already. Thanks for hanging around and chatting. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Don’t feel bad if you need an easy day in your schedule!
Too much of a good thing is never good.
Well, this also holds true when it comes to training for a specific event. While specificity of training (that is, training specifically for the event one will compete in) is very important, specialising too early, or being too repetitive in training is a sure way to develop injuries down the track. So laying a solid foundation, one that will be the base for the highest possible peak of success, requires well planned variety.