This week, I started training for my second half marathon. I am using the same programme I used for the Aviemore half, the same one that incorporated speed work, hill training and long runs and that was rolled into a neat little package of three days a week, perfect for my needs and my body. This programme gave me the chance to rest, to do ab work and to learn so much more about myself than I ever imagined. This programme solidified my love for running and helped me run a strong first half marathon.
This isn’t the case for everyone though. As runners, I think it’s safe to say that we think we know it all, but really we only know the tip of the iceberg. We hear tips, we assume, and we push ourselves far beyond our body’s limits, and as a result, we become more prone to injury and illness. And because we think we know it all, we train ourselves, we assume that the programme we’ve created in our minds (and that can be so easily manipulated because nothing is really set in stone) will be the one that will help us smash our current personal bests and allow us to become stronger, faster runners. Only we’re wrong, and race day comes and goes, the PB was non-existent, and we’re left wondering what happened. And in case you’re wondering, yes I’m describing myself for the most part.
I now know that training programmes work for me and today I’m writing to preach the benefits of choosing a structured programme over trying to train yourself. I’m not a certified run coach or personal trainer, I’m just someone who’s been there, done that and failed, then been there, done the programme and succeeded, and I want that for other runners too. During these next twelve weeks of half marathon training, on top of Half Mary Musings (my weekly reflection on training), I’m going to write a series of posts on the benefits of training programmes, all with that familiar hashtag #trustthetraining.
Today, as you may have guessed, we begin with the value of a training programme:
1. They are created by fitness professionals who have studied extensively in this field and know what they’re talking about. They understand the science of the sport, the human body and the science of recovery, so they’re best placed to be making the training calls. They’ve done the ground work, you just need to follow willingly.
2. And because the ground work is already done, there is no thinking involved in a training programme, just doing. Actually, I take that back: you do, at times, have to re-read what’s set out to make sure you understand it. Or maybe that’s just me 😉
3. A no-brainer: they improve your overall fitness to ultimately help you succeed race day.
4. You go outside your comfort zone and you make space between I can and I can’t. I know that over the twelve weeks I trained for Aviemore my confidence in my running improved greatly. While I didn’t become the fastest person in my running group, I became the fastest I’d ever been to date, and all down to the different types of runs I did for my programme.
5. You will do runs that make you feel like a more serious runner. I used to read running blogs and articles with the words tempo, threshold, negative splits, progression, intervals, and hill sprints and think to myself “I’ll never do those, only serious runners do those.” Now, along with long runs, these are the only types of runs I seem to do!
6. You learn what your paces feel like. When I first started half marathon training, I kinda panicked because I had to know my 10km pace and 5km for some training runs. At first, I thought using the McMillan Running calculator and my Garmin would help, but I found this made me into a perfectionist runner, and I didn’t like that. Then, I read an article and with the advice of a friend, went by effort and feel for paces rather than what my watch said. I’ve been doing that ever since, and it’s been working.
7. You learn how to run smart. I ran 10 races last year, and only after half marathon training and seven of those races did I finally learn how to be a smart runner. Rather than start out way too fast at the beginning of a race then fading away and losing speed, I learned to start slow and finish fast, all because of some clever 80 minute long runs with the last 20 at threshold pace. After my first run like this, it clicked. And it’s been clicking ever since.
8. You learn your running time. This is a difficult one to explain and I’m not quite sure ‘running time’ best describes it, but I’m going with it. You know you’ve got to run another half mile and based on your training to date, you know that that half mile will be, say, up that hill and around the bend. And sure enough, it is. It’s a strange thing to try to explain, but I’m sure there’s a few of you reading this right now, nodding your head in agreement.
9. Your body adapts to the long runs and recovery. I used to never think that I could run further than 6 miles because whenever I did, my knees and hips ached. All it took was for me to gradually increase the distance of my long runs and my body adapted to them. Recovery is something that we don’t seem to think about, and some take for granted, but it’s one of the most important aspects of your running. We push our body to work hard in our training programme, but then equally, with scheduled rest days and strategic easy weeks, our body’s are also learning to adapt to the hard exercise and as a result, they become more efficient. They are learning to recover, which will lead to easier recovery after the big race.
10. You will have a great race because you’ve trained hard, done all of your sessions and given your body the required amount of time to adapt and recover.
Do you follow training programmes for your races?
What kind of running mistakes did you make after you assumed something?
What races are you training for?