Training has been all about new approaches and methods just recently, it seems. I took a little (enforced) break from running for a week whilst on a family holiday. We stayed in Devon for a week and had lots of wonderful days at the beach and out and about. I say that my break from running was enforced purely because of the location of the cottage we stayed at – out in the sticks of rural Devon reached by those narrow roads that can barely accommodate one vehicle at a time and lined on both sides by trees and hedgerows with not a footpath in site. We’ve been holidaying in Devon and Cornwall for many years now and so I’m all too aware of how often vehicles travelling in different direction can reach a tetchy impasse, with both waiting for the other to reverse back along the road to find a passing place. I also noticed a few tractors careering along the local lanes, with tyres only marginally able to stay within the confines of the road. Safe to say, no room for runners! I had all of my running gear with me but it was sadly unused, as the thoughts of being mowed down on a narrow road or death by tractor really didn’t appeal to me. So instead it was a week of family time and lots of fun with my boys.
Above: a holiday snapshot for you. The pebble beach at Budleigh Salterton with moonlight shining across the sea as night falls. A very pretty coastal town with pastel coloured beach huts and delicious gluten free and locally caught fish and chips!
Once we were back home, it was time to get back on track with my training programme. As soon as the beach towels were washed and drying on the line, I had my gear on and was ready to get going! This is where the new tricks come in. Since I’ve started running and have joined running groups online, I’ve read a lot of comments about concepts such as interval training, splits, switches, and tapering. I have to admit that I did no more than skim read the comments, as I assumed it was all ‘proper marathon runner chat’ and that it wouldn’t have any relevance to me. That’s still true to a point but as I work my way through my 21k training app, I’m beginning to not only understand more about these methods, but also implementing them too. Which is kind of making me feel more like a ‘proper runner’.
The ‘new trick’ I’m enjoying the most is interval training. My programme has just started to include one day of it each week. It’s fairly gentle so far, starting off with a five minute run and then I’m instructed to “run slightly faster” for a minute before walking for two minutes. This is repeated six times and ends with another five minute run at a normal pace. I have to admit that I really got into it – whilst I wasn’t running at full pelt, I did do more than “run slightly faster” and I really enjoyed it! There was just something exhilarating about picking my pace up and going faster – I’ve had this nagging feeling that my pace is too slow and I am more of a determined plodder than a runner but I’ve tried to keep my focus on building up my endurance and fitness and focusing on completing my training sessions with distances in mind rather than speed. This nagging feeling has fermented in the background though, planting worries in my mind that I’m too slow and will take too long to complete distances. Interval training is helping with that! I am beginning to see and understand how the jigsaw pieces of training are fitting together: the runs I have been doing so far have been all about getting me up to a certain level of endurance where I can run for longer and longer periods without stopping. That’s the foundation of the training – the corner and outside pieces of the jigsaw from which all the other pieces fit and stem, if you like. Interval training is where pace and speed is worked on and waiting until now to introduce running for pace makes perfect sense – the foundations have been laid and now it’s time to start adding to them.
As well as really loving intervals, I have noticed that they’ve had an immediate effect on how I run. The runs I’ve done following interval training have all been at an increasing pace. Luckily Strava can show me how my runs are trending faster so that I can see it for myself! Weirdly, I’m also feeling less tired – again I’m telling myself as I run “I can do this. I’ve got it in me” when my legs tire and my hips start to feel a little achey and I always seem to tap into a reserve of energy at that point and I keep going. My splits are evening out too. I had a pattern of slowing down during the last couple of kilometres but now I’ve noticed (again, thanks Strava) that my times for all kilometres are evening out and my pace is staying within a much smaller range of times now. So all of those worries about being too slow and a plodder? Pffffft! Not any more. I’ve got this!
Above is my Interval Runner badge – I’m on my way to winning, apparently.
One more new change to my training has been that my recommended runs have increased to four a week now. My programme comprises two pretty standard runs that I’m used to now, and interval training session, plus one long run at the end of the week. Again, this is something I’ve read about in online running groups: extending your training to include a long run at the end of each week. There was a time when this would have panicked me and I would have worried about whether I could do it but those times seem to be gone now. Instead, I’m really enjoying it – I’m looking forward to that extra run each week. I want to see how the rest of my training is developing me and doing that long run will allow me to do that. I want to see just how far I can push myself and how far I can go. I want to know how much I have improved and see it for myself. I want to finally accept that I’m less of a determined plodder and more of a proper runner!
Looking forward. I’ve had a quick skim through my training programme for the coming weeks and I’ve noticed another new addition – strength training. The seventh day requires 25 minutes of strength training. This is something I’ve been thinking about as I know it’s incredibly beneficial to runners. I’ve always held back on it so far because I haven’t wanted to over-train and risk injury at this stage. Now that my programme is going to start including it, will I still hold back? Hell no! Bring it on!
So, in summary:
- Patience is key. Everything gets there in the end. If you’re working on one thing like distance or stamina, don’t worry about how your pace and speed should be coming along. They will come along eventually.
- Tackle one thing at a time. As above, focus on one element of training and don’t panic about all the other things you feel you should be doing. This only leads to frustration and feeling overwhelmed, as well as unnecessary worrying. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
- Rise to challenges! You’ll end up loving them and being glad that you pushed yourself. Good things are worth working hard for.
Happy running everyone xx