I’m Experienced but Confused….Lots of Training Options.
Contributed by Tim Flahaven & Tina Husted
Somewhere along the line in the past 10 years, running has become the new golf. Browse a Barnes and Noble and you will see more books on running than virtually any other individual sport. Don’t get me wrong, golf books still rule the shelf space, but it is only because golfers are truly obsessive and will do anything and spend anything to get an edge. Runners are catching up. Particularly when it comes to marathoning, which is still the holy grail of all endurance activities. It is like the home run record or the consecutive hits record in baseball. The marathon is something everyone can wrap their mind around, and as far as an American pursuit, it has moved totally mainstream in the past 10 years. And actually as far as participation numbers, the half is now becoming wildly more popular now than the full.
Why? It’s more than a bucket list deal. There is a socialization process that takes place in running and walking that introduces us to lifelong friends. We should be grateful just to have this one absolute benefit result from our training.
But alas, some of us want to get better.
Then what do we do to get better? As mentioned, the number of books is legion. The options on the internet are mind-boggling. And the personal coaching resources are everywhere. So what is the best option for you, if you want to take your training and get a little more (or a lot more) serious about it and see performance improvement?
Well, I’m not going to tell you. It’s a trap question because there is no real best answer. Don’t get me wrong, if you are running for Alberto Salazar at the University of Oregon chances are you are listening to no one else. Forget Salazar though. Have you ever heard of Adams State University in Alamosa Colorado? A little NAIA school. At Adams State their coach, Joe Vigil (now retired) coached 483 all-Americans and 87 National Champions in his 30 year career. So here is the take-away: Our resources in terms of what we can muster through our own self education or our own reliance on our internet personal coach or our local personal coach may very well help you to improve. But those resources – no matter how much you pay for them, ain’t gonna touch what the true Zen Masters have accomplished. (Granted they work with athletes with a bit more aptitude than most of us).
Here’s what I will tell you. Look to master the basic building blocks of what it takes to get better, and you will get better. There is no silver bullet. But you know more and you have access to more information on how to train more effectively right here in your backyard. Ask those that have run at a very respectable level for a long time for their advice. There are some really fast runners in MIT such as Tina Husted and Dave Calvert and Roger Honan and Paul Stoodley who have gotten there pretty much on their own, after being in the MIT framework for several years. I am certain all of them would be willing to share what works for them with you. However, for those who are experienced and you may know this, what works for one person may not work for someone else—so yes, it is a trial an error, but we all hope that the error becomes vastly smaller and the benefits we reap from all the training and advice becomes a recipe for success. That said, below is a list that I believe most experienced and successful runners should adhere to:
1.) Listen to your body. If you don’t feel it, don’t push it, even take a day (or two) off if necessary –or cross train as an active recovery method. Your body knows, let it guide you. And if you’re injured-don’t run--get treated to allow your body to be better prepared to reapply the stress of a tough training program.
2.) Strength Train. Emphasis should be placed on muscle utilized in running 1-2 times per week
3.) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Not to the point of excess, but pay attention. If your urine is dark, you’re dehydrated and therefore will struggle to have quality runs and races. Period.
4.) Nutrition. Replenish your glycogen stores after your workouts. It is one of the most critical factors to making your next workout being a quality effort. In addition, get adequate amounts of protein and eat plenty of healthy foods while eating about 10% higher carbs than the RDA.
5.) Sleep. Probably one of the most overlooked factors in training successfully. Your body needs it to recover. You need to recover to get faster.
6.) Follow the plan. Have you ever heard the analogy in golf “to hit the ball extra far you must extra relax”? A similar analogy applies to running. To run extra fast, you need to learn to run extra slow. Those easy recovery days allow for your body to get the benefits of the hard interval, tempo, fast finish, progressive run workouts you may be incorporating into your training plan. When the plan says to run slow-DO IT. Attempting to run faster than prescribed on recovery days will do nothing by hinder progress and make your body feel more depleted than it needs to feel.
7.) Toe the line often. To become a better racer- you need to race, plain and simple. It’s just like giving a public speech, the more you do it, the better you become. We’re not suggesting multiple marathons or halves in a given training cycle, but tossing in a few 5ks, 5 mile, or 10ks into the mix will prepare your mind for the stress of racing—and you’ll be better because of it.
8.) Patience & Perspective - Enjoy the journey. We aren't getting paid to run, and that's the best part - we get to run for ourselves. Don't fall into the trap of doing and expecting too much at once. Success doesn't occur over night and some cases won't flourish for a year or so. It can be scary when things go wrong, but will make for some great stories when you arrive. Don't ever give up on your dreams - they are there for a reason.
As an experienced runner with MIT, you have many training options that the program offers. In addition to the opportunity to join the advanced training program (ATP) with Tim Flahaven, Tina Husted and Jenn Scrimenti. Roger Honan is experiencing success working with new training approaches. Jeff Henderson has revamped the experienced and advanced MIT mileage plans. Dr. Devor and Bright have a broad perspective that you can mine. We hope with all of the vast resources MIT provides, combined with what you can discover on your own, you will become the best, fastest, and happiest runner out there. We wish you much success as you take on this next training cycle.