Uncovering a HUGE training mistake
|March 4, 2014||Posted by Melinda under Vet & Sports Medicine|
I’m going to just lay it out here in the beginning, and then we will talk about why these are HUGE mistakes.
1. My goal for running was fitness. Fitness being defined as being able to do “whatever” on the weekends without too much trouble, with a strong bias towards endurance type events, and reaching my goal “fighting weight”.
2. I evaluated my running training based on mileage, duration, and pace. Decreasing times measured success and were indication of increasing fitness.
Feel free to extrapolate today’s thoughts to horses and endurance. I’m going to mostly stick to talking about running since that’s what I have clearest in my mind right now.
Here’s the trouble with number 1. By having a goal of “fitness”, it did not direct my workouts. I was in fact “unfit” when I started, but then once I “got fit” (ie met my definition of fit), without a specific goal there is no way to decide what I should be working on. Should I increase the duration of my interval runs or decrease the rest period? Should I be going faster or longer? I can make any workout a 5/5 on my perceived effort scale, but the point of working hard and training is adaptation – and if I don’t know what I’m training and adapting towards, than how do I choose a particular skill to work on?
You can’t train everything simultaneously. And if you try, you will end up NOT adapting to the stress of the training optimally and you will end up somewhere in the middle – neither fast not far (but of course, certainly fit….)
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy running for its own sake. I like how I feel when I run, I like what it does to my body physically, and it’s a better drug for depression/anxiety/stress than anything that comes in a bottle.
In the past, whatever running I did was enough to improving my fitness base so it didn’t really matter what exactly I did. Just getting out there on a regular basis let me see great gains in both pace and number of miles run.
And then, when I added HIIT work, again I saw huge gains – having never done any speed work before I could do practically any combination of HIIT work and watch my pace improve over and long distances.
But recently I’ve noticed something odd. I’ve hit a plateau. I’m running neither faster nor longer. Overall my HIIT runs are getting slower, even though I’m spending relatively more time sprinting during them. On the distance side, I can “*effectively” run about 2-2.5 hours, which hasn’t really changed in the last couple months despite adequate recovery and continuing to push myself during workouts.
*I can run more than 2.5 hours as long as I’ve adjusted my pace accordingly, do a lot of walking etc. – but there’s no sense that I’m actually training or conditioning beyond just time on my feet – which is valuable but it’s also not doing anything beyond just moving forward – which while is commendable isn’t the same thing as still actively engaged in the activity. Sorta like the difference between staying in the saddle for 12 hours and riding for 12 hours.
Training mistake number 2 was born out of training mistake number 1. I somehow equilibrated fitness with being faster and running more miles, so is it any wonder that I evaluated the “success” of my program based on those two numbers?
By focusing solely on whether my average pace was going down and the number of miles accomplished as an indicator of success, I neglected (and was not motivated) to do any sort of training that would make those numbers look worse.
I’ve gotten as far as I’m going to get with the goal of “be fit”. Now I need to chose a goal to direct my training. Training for endurance means sacrificing speed, and training for speed means sacrificing endurance.
The trick, according to what I’m reading in Magness’s “Science of Running” is to decide which element I need and decide when it needs to peak. And then work on the other skills while not sacrificing too much of main element in the meantime. And then, bring back the main element and try to maintain as much of the other as you can.
For example, for an endurance event, perhaps you start by working on speed – while trying to maintain some endurance capacity through some long runs. Then when it’s time to start thinking about building endurance….you do so while trying to hang onto that speed you developed.
The goal is to peak the endurance that you need for the event, while you still have enough speed from your prior work.
Since you can’t build 2 opposing traits on once, the concept of cyclicity and “periodic” training is important. I may be training for an endurance event, but sometimes I’m training for speed, sometimes endurance, sometimes strength.
I swear I learned that training for speed and endurance are mutually exclusive a long time ago. This isn’t a new revolution for me. But somehow….I sorta forgot. Maybe it was both the endurance and speed gains I was getting because of the early adaptations to training.
Magness emphasizes in chapter 14 of “Running of Science” that training “isn’t simply the idea of continually building fitness in each separate area.”
And that folks, is the epitome of exactly what I was doing. Instead of integrating my program as a whole, I was working on separate aspects and expecting them to behave themselves and progress in independently of the other variables.
What REALLY drove it home for me this time that training different aspects (speed, strength, endurance etc.) does not occur in isolation was Magness laying out some of the physiological ways that adaption to a stimulus of a certain type of training can be modified based on what other training is going on.
For example, STRENGTH gains are limited when there is heavy endurance work. I’m going to quote “Running of Science” here because I’m too brain fatigued to explain it better:
“In looking at the main signaling targets for strength and endurance gains, they essentially act as antogonist, but mostly in the direction of strength. It’s one of the reasons why strength gains are limited when combining with heavy endurance work. Timing is…critical. For instance, a low amount of strength training can influence recovery via changes in hormone concentrations when done after a run. While doing it the other way around, strength first and then running right after, will increase strength endurance but dampen down muscle growth gains from the strength work because endurance exercise will shut down the mTOR pathway. Which could be good or bad depending on the goal of the training.”
The mTOR pathway plays a role in strength gains and can be inhibited by doing endurance training. If you want big muscles, you need an activated mTOR pathway. It’s probably why
In addition to the cyclicity of training speed, endurance etc – where you are in training ALSO determines how much recovery you should be doing compared to stimulus. Remember our whole discussion on pre-fatigue? Turns out that depending where you are in the training cycle (competition, pre competition, base etc.) you also have to balance recovery versus training.
In some ways knowing the philosophy of training makes everything so simple. As the Science of Running puts it:
“…it isn’t simply about maximizing each component (strength, endurance, speed). Instead it’s about knowing how to balance the development of speed and endurance, and knowing when each needs to be at their highest during the season.”
And yet, this simple concept exposes some of the deepest flaws in the past training programs I’ve had for both myself and my horses.
Lots of thinking to do on both the human and equine side of things as I continue my recovery this week!
Oh yes – Thanks to Science of Running I’ve been (re)reminded of the importance of recovery. Thus when I originally planned a tempo run today since my easy run went so well yesterday I realized that it was CRAZY. Would I start training my horse after the first normal ride post race? Especially if it took a week for them to feel normal?
NO!!!!! I would give them at least another week of easy work before I asked for ANYTHING strenuous.
And so I’m treating myself like a horse and did another easy run and plan on doing nothing but easy runs for the rest of the week before deciding I’m ready to start training work again.
Hopefully by then I will have digested enough of the training advice in Running of Science to have hobbled together a training plan that makes sense based on an actual goal. 🙂
Farley already has a goal, and I think her training plan actually makes more sense than mine at this point!