Running Triathlon

Running, Triathlon & Race walking information. Cutting edge ideas & insights from a very experienced & highly qualified endurance coach.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Plyometrics for Runners & triathltes

Plyometrics – A dual edged sword

Whether we like it or not, running is a totally unsupported, multiple repetition explosive activity which places the highest demand on lower limb joints & musculature. Sometimes progressive run training alone is insufficient to develop the necessary support & conditioning to run safely & effectively for protracted periods on, in the case of triathlon, already greatly fatigues legs.

When a joint is injured or weakened in an endurance athlete; more specifically the knee in runners, it is difficult to strengthen the knee to deal with the rigorous requirements of the event (running or triathlon) without further weakening or injuring the joint. These ballistic forces that must be counteracted are eccentric soleus, quad & hamstring loading under forces greater than body weight.

Before beginning the process be sure to determine whether the correct muscle groups are able to fire & are engaged. Use techniques as those suggested in Running Sports Essentials. Through a PT or sports physician ensure that the journey you are about to embark upon is sensible & doable.

The approach should 1st be low weight (less than body weight), progressive specific strengthening of the joint’s supporting musculature. Examples: single legged partial bend leg presses, single legged, partial (way less than 90*) leg extensions. Also include a variety of balancing exercises on one leg at a time, gradually introducing more & more instability. It might also be necessary to develop the necessary specific conditioning especially in general quads, soleus & glute medius & minimus & the core in general to ensure proper support during the activities.

2ndly move to more functional exercises that better mimic running. These could be partial single legged compass squats & gentle absolutely correctly executed static partial lunges & standing, leg weight only, hamstring curls.

Phase 3 may include the introduction of some functional resistance work like hill running, then sprinting or specific race pace efforts. Be careful to either walk down with small soft steps between reps, or to jog down with similar light, short, quick tread. More aggressive, but correctly executed lunges can be introduced in this phase.

Phase 4 would include static progressive single & double legged plyometrics where the aim is more to develop support strength, balance/proprioception & muscle endurance. See Runner’s World article called Calf Busters.

Final phase – which may not be possible in some instances of injury, is full, but distance running oriented plyometrics. These need consist only of horizontal & then incline single legged running hops & correctly executed bounds—also 1st horizontal, then incline.

Lastly, ensure that run mechanics are sound; in terms of impact (partial & not direct), in terms of load bearing (reduce period per foot strike – quicker stride rate & keep the body weight as low as is safely possible) & finally in terms of linearity (remove opportunities for the creation of excessive torque during the gait).

Think safety 1st, then move progressively, with regular recovery & assessment through the stages & always remember that these activities are done in order to support a healthier run & to increase performance.

Bobby McGee
©BMES 2007

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

WHY A MULTI PACE/EFFORT TRAINING SYSTEM?

It is common for the neophyte runner to report that no matter how much training they do, they cannot seem to run any faster for the shorter distances than they run for the longer distances & they seem to get stuck on a fitness plateau that leaves them “stale” & unable to break through to the next level no matter the run training volume they achieve.

Enter the need for a change of pace.

Varied pace run training been around since the 1910s (Paavo Nurmi used Fartlek in the forests of Finland). This was designed by a Finish coach by the name of Lauri Pikhala.

Interval training was further developed by Gerschler & Igloi—this led to the 1st sub 4:00 mile.

Extreme disciplinarians like Zatopek (3 golds in 1 Olympics) ran as many as 40 quarter mile repeats in one go & Arthur Lydiard had his milers run 100 miles per week of these mixed paces.

Modern coaches utilize multiple pace training, all in one workout with paces ranging from walking to all out sprinting within the same workout. The great Sebastian Coe was coached by his father. He learned of multi tier training from a wonderful British coach by the name of Frank Horwill. The Kenyans almost instinctively train like this, starting out at 45:00 10km pace & ending workouts with well over a mile’s worth of work in under 4:00 mile pace

The key in these types of workouts is to progressively stimulate & fatigue ALL the endurance athlete’s physiological energy production systems, so that they can absorb training & eventually leave the athlete able to run longer more easily & be faster for longer in races. These energy systems can be sub-divided by pace &/or effort. Effort can be measured in longer efforts by the heart rate. However effort is not a good way to determine pace—the better runners sense pace from speed of movement & not by effort.

To teach the body & mind to “learn” pace is essential if one wishes to run races to the best of one’s ability. The only way to do this is to train over varying measured distances at varying intensities & speeds. The modern GPS, accelerometer & heart rate monitor telemetric technology is a great boon in this department nowadays.

The body can only produce energy for fixed amounts of time at various intensities. We have “instant” energy available for .5 of a second, the next slightly slower delivery system lasts for about 5sec; then for 45sec, followed by up to 6:00. The next level is at about 30 to 40 minutes. After this our ability is limited by the ability to burn fat, stay cool, hydrated & fed & finally the ability of leg muscles to endure long term sub maximal loading (muscle endurance). Of course ALL these systems are functioning at varying intensities at ALL times.

Runners need training in all zones:
Zone 1 is to develop endurance in the leg muscles & prepare the O2 delivery system for the more specific quality work that makes for a fast running performance (Constitutes 60-80% of training)
Zone 2 work is to teach the body to effectively run at half marathon to marathon pace—this pace also trains the body to metabolize & flush lactate in the faster shorter races (10 – 15% of training)
Zone 3 efforts allow the runner to improve speed in the 30 to 40 minute zone. This is associated with large parts of the 10km (Also around 10 – 15%, depending on the upcoming event)
Zone 4 This is most associated with efforts that are shorter than 30 minutes. The runner can only hold VO2 max pace for about 6 min. The athlete’s prolonged finishing ability is strengthened here. (6 – 8% of training)

By effectively using a multi pace/effort system a runner can expect progressive improvement over the full range of racing distances & be specifically prepared for that one specifically targeted race.

Learn to pace yourself—gain the most powerful of all the racing tools a runner can have & get the most out of your fitness on race day.

Bobby McGee ©BMES 2007

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

BASE BUILDING

HOW TO BE THE ACE OF BASE

How to effectively design a period of BASE training for running

Recommending a BASE training period is a complex issue for a group of runners who have non-homogenous backgrounds when joining a group running environment, especially in terms of their current running volume coming into a preparatory period.

Considering that runners who are interested in a specific BASE program are sufficiently experienced one can assume that they are fairly proficient runners.

The following is the approach I follow with runners that I coach:

Be sure that you have provided sufficient down time/recovery time or “detraining” since your last long event before commencing with training for the next major race. A full week’s break with some walking or light hiking, followed by 2 to 3 weeks of light running is recommended
Determine your weekly average mileage over the preceding 6-week period
From this number (weekly average) add 15% per week if you have done less than 30 miles per week. Add 10% per week if the number of miles is greater than 30 miles
Taking the longest manageable long run as a marker, add 15% per long run if that longest run was less than 8 miles or less than 75 minutes of running. If more add 10% per week
If you have run an average of 2 or less runs per week add 2 runs per week during the BASE period. If you have run 3 or more times per week on average over the last 6 weeks, then add 1 run per week during the BASE period. Do this until the optimal number of runs per week has been achieved.
It is recommended that one day per week is taken as a complete leg rest, or actively rested with a walk or hike as the recovery modality. If you ride a bike regularly, an easy bike ride will also suffice
It is suggested that no more than 9 runs per week are completed by runners who run less than 60 miles per week (although low volume high frequency is the safest way to build effective volume)
Consider your individual recovery rate when determining run frequency & volume during BASE. Older &/or heavier &/or runners with poor mechanics should pay careful attention to this point. As a general rule of thumb, runs exceeding 15 miles or their time equivalent, or 90 minutes of running, require additional recovery time beyond the usual 48 hour period. Allow this to guide your individual run determination, as well as the recovery requirements after each run; especially long runs
Don’t build BASE linearly—take a down week of around 75% of the previous week’s volume, at least every 2-4 weeks. Also do not build BASE indefinitely. BASE lasts & previous years of BASE allow the runner to spend less time each new build phase restoring that BASE. I do not like exceeding 12 weeks of build time (excluding down weeks)
It is suggested that during this BASE period you keep the heart rate low (at least below 75% of your heart rate reserve—which is maximum heart, minus resting heart rate, multiplied by .75, plus your resting heart rate). With runners capable, I suggest less than 70% of heart rate reserve. Any prolonged intensity work like lactate threshold or tempo runs during this period will lead to an early plateau in your training
Finally it is recommended that leg speed be introduced & developed during this phase through gradually introduced (after around 3 weeks) & increased striding up to 3 times per week. Keep the strides alactic, i.e. at or below 15seconds so that issues mentioned in the previous point do not arise. Rather build volume at speed by adding repetitions. Take ample rest between strides, allowing the heart rate to settle completely before doing the next repeat. Always maintain control through increasing speed gradually & maintaining excellent form. Start with 4X15 seconds & build to a maximum of around 2 sets of 5X15seconds

Enjoy the BASE period; build thoroughly & progressively. The secret to a successful BASE period is gradually overloading the system, allowing it to recover stronger in preparation of the body for the more rigorous training to come.

Run smart,

Best wishes

Bobby McGee

©BMES
Grace, Gratitude & Guts
www.BobbyMcGee.com

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wanna Be Miler?

Advanced training for age group milers who want to go fast (even sub 5!) for the mile

Break the
5-MINUTE
MILE

Go sub-5 and stun your age-group!

Announcing a unique opportunity for
Masters athletes to crack the 5-minute mile.

Be a part of Olympic coach Bobby McGee’s
new Magic Miling program designed to take a select group of committed runners under the 5-minute “barrier” by Pearl Street Mile time in August next year.

We’re starting with baseline assessments this month. The program is focused on going Sub-5 over-50, but all ages are welcome. It will also work if you want to go sub-6!

We also have a distance (email) version (contact us for details)
___________________________________
Contact: Marci at 303 946 3087; bobbymcgee.admin@comcast.net Pearl Street Mile is August 16: www.gettingthere.com/boulderraceseries

Boston Training

My annual 14 week Training Program for the Boston marathon begins in January. Each year so far we have had PRs galore & at least one athlete under 3 hours. Join us, either online or hands on (if you live in the Boulder area)!

Go to www.fastforwardsports.net for details

Get a customized (& heart rate monitor based) schedule, information, notes, motivation & EVERYTHING you'll need to succeed in the 2007 marathon that happens on April 16th.

Run/Walk Method

The Run Walk Method according to Bobby McGee

Introduction & Phasing of the Run/Walk method to run training for Runners & Multisport Athletes

There is a myth in running & triathlon that an athlete is somehow inferior if they are unable to “run the whole way” in a race. Did an athlete who completed the distance faster than another athlete who ran the whole way not actually beat that athlete? I think so! The purpose of racing is to determine who reaches the finish line fairly & according to the rules in the least amount of time. Walking in a running race is not illegal. If it brings the athlete to the finish line faster, then perhaps the athlete should look into incorporating this into his/her training just as crucially as lactate threshold training & other performance increasing training modalities.

If you run regularly (4+ X per week), then use for runs longer than 35 to 45:00
For experienced runners I would suggest breaking up long runs & tempo runs (the latter defined as half marathon to marathon pace/effort – not off the bike, but flat pure runs)
I would also highly recommend using the method in your longer bricks where you run more than 35 – 45:00 off the bike
The basic model I use is 10:00 of running & 1:00 of walking, but I easily adapt this to suit the athlete’s capabilities. The following ranges are what I recommend from easiest to most skilled:

Phase 1: Beginner: This assumes no running at all prior to this. 1:00 run, 1:00 walk, build rapidly (weekly) to 5:00 run, 1:00 walk.
2. Phase II: This assumes low running volume (fewer than 4 runs per week) & looking to build volume. Add 10 – 15% to all runs weekly, but break runs up into 6 to 10:00 sections, with a 1:00 walk. If using 10% increases, then move closer to 10:00 run, 1:00 walk, if increasing by 15%, then stay closer to 6:00 run, 1:00 walk
3. Phase III: This assumes advanced runner looking to increase both volume in long runs & speed in quality workouts. Have the basis be 10:00 run, 1:00 walk & build from there. I have had runners break runs into sections as large as 30:00, but sometimes find that on chunks larger than 15:00 some athletes have a hard time starting the run again. In the majority of athletes this is easily rectified by ensuring that the walk stride rate stays high (rather shorter steps & high cadence), that the walk is brisk with a purpose to covering ground, rather than thinking, “ah, rest”! Also ensure that the arms are kept in running mode—allowing the arms to drop down, slows the stride rate, increases the stride length, which in turn leads to “switching off” & the lengthened levers put the pelvis & hamstrings under increased stress. By following these guidelines the runner stays facilitated & easily restarts the next section with renewed vigor.
4. Threshold Workouts: I usually break these up into fixed times or distances any way. I design these around a total volume of 30 to 40:00. I find that longer walks here ensure a more rapid progression, i.e. velocity at the same heart rate increases fastest when longer rest periods are incorporated. Sample workout would be 3X1.5 mile at LT (heart rate or pace, depending on the phase of training) with a 5:00 walk between each. If the athlete does not have the speed, for example, to complete the quality sections in under 40:00, or is fast enough that the quality work is less than 30:00, then I would either break it up into time sections for the beginner, like 3X10:00, or lengthen the reps for the advanced, speedier runner, like 3X2.2 miles.
5. Tempo workouts: Here the workout goal would be determined by considering specific event requirements. In the earlier part of this preparation phase I emphasize time sections at a specific heart rate, e.g. for half marathon run 4X15:00 at ½ marathon heart rate, with a 2:00 walk between each. Then in the latter part of the final preparation phase I’d have the same athlete run 3X5km at goal ½ marathon pace with a 2-3:00 walk break between each. I suggest a similar approach to marathon pace tempo runs & IM & ½ IM brick/combo runs. With the marathon I generally keep total volumes below & up to 15 miles (25km).
1. Long Runs: The purpose of long runs is to develop muscle endurance & train the body’s ability to metabolize lipids as a fuel source. A coach can objectively measure increases in vascularity in long runs by observing the athletes decoupling rates, (i.e. when pace slows, while HR remains constant). The basic idea is to be able to increase long run pace while maintaining predetermined sub AeT (aerobic threshold) heart rates. This is by far the most easy to improve through using the walk/run methodology. I find best results when I keep the ratio at 10:00 run, but move the 1:00 walk down as the athlete improves (by 5 to 10sec per jump) until a minimum walk period of 15sec.
2. Racing: For runners who run the marathon in slower than 2:30 (at least sub 3:00) & then, by virtue of IM world bests, all IM athletes, I strongly recommend racing the walk/run method during racing as well. Sub 2:30 marathons have been achieved by runners in this fashion. This implies that if you are going to race this way, train this way. However, for the runner who wishes to run considerably faster & is able to run sub 2:30, I would still use this approach on the majority of occasions, but there would have to be long runs & tempo runs that are continuous running.

ADVANTAGES OF THE METHOD:

1. Increased volume (per workout & per week/phase)
2. Reduced recovery time
3. Mentally easier to train & race
4. Faster in the majority of cases
5. Improved lipid metabolism
6. Increased functional leg strength

What’s not to like?

Bobby McGee
© BMES 2006
Grace, Gratitude & Guts
www.BobbyMcGee.com

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Running Triathlon

What Bobby McGee is up to in the world of Running & Triathlon

I am presenting 2 pre-race talks for runners participating in the annual Bolder Boulder Road race. The dates, times & venues are:

May 25th, 7:00pm, Lakeshore Athletic Club, 300 Summit Boulevard, Broomfield, Co

May 28th, 10:00am, North Boulder Park, 9th & Balsam, in Boulder Co.

Both talks are free - bring your friends.

This will be an opportunity to purchase a copy of my new booklet, Running Sports Essentials. This is a 18-page manual on the latest techniques for Dynamic Warm Ups, Muscle Potentiation, Core Strengthening & Stretching.

I will also have copies of Magical Running, my book on the mental skills required for successful running & racing available.

Neo Marathon Program: On June 10th, Bobby McGee Endurance Sports, is starting a beginner half marathon program for folks who are wanting to run a marathon, but have never been runners/marathoners before. We are starting with a 18-week half marathon program (June 10 to October 15), that is targeting The Denver Half Marathon, on October 15. This will lead into a program for the full marathon next year. We are courting beginners, couch potatoes, dreamers & wannabe heroes in the the East Boulder & Broomfield Counties. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY THE WAY TO GO - THE PROGRAM IS DESIGNED TO BE SAFE, PROGRESSIVE & SERIOUS FUN! SIGN UP EARLY PLEASE - see www.BobbyMcGee.com for further details, or call us at 303 946 3087

Triathlon Coach Certification: I will be presenting running & sport psychology units at a number of USA Triathlon coach education courses in Colorado Springs.
June 1, 2 & 3 Level 1. Colorado Springs
July 6,7 & 8 Level 1. Colorado Springs
October 5, 6 & 7 Level 2. Colorado Springs
November 8, 9, 10 Level 1, Colorado Springs
December 4 - 8, Level 3, Colorado Springs

World Junior Triathlon Training camp - Hungary, Aug 15 - 28

Running Bio-Mechanical Drills Classes: These are still very popular amongst all levels of runners & triathletes. Wednesday mornings in boulder. See www.BobbyMcGee.com or call 303 946 3087 for more details.

Till next time - Fitness is Magic.

Bobby McGee
www.BobbyMcGee.com

Monday, May 08, 2006

Using Track Repetition Times as Race Pointers

It is common for athletes to take training times & make assumptions as to how they will fare in upcoming races. With this article I’ll attempt to give some guidelines on how to interpret training data so that runners do not set themselves up for disappointment in their next race.

The main factors to consider are:

Total training volume: Relate training to racing by considering what the total volume of the workout is as well as the total quality running done in that workout, i.e. warm up, recovery running & warm down are volume factors, but the volume of the quality work is a performance factor
Length of individual repetitions: The longer the individual repetitions in a set the more relevant they are to the race being trained for. As an example it is logical to consider that 3X1600m with 45sec recovery between each is a better test of current 5km ability than 5X1000m with 30sec recovery—1stly 1600m is 4X400m laps, while 1000m is only 2.5X400m laps. Even more importantly the total rest between the 1000s is 2:00, while the recovery between the 1600s is only 1:30. This is even easier to understand when considering that a 5km is 5X1000m with zero seconds of recovery between each! Conditioning for racing is most effective when gradually increasing the length of reps & reducing the amount of recovery. This is a callusing process which prepares the athlete for the demands of the race
Rest periods between repetitions & sets: This is partially explained in the former point & should always be considered when designing the progression of workouts—start with longer rest & reduce as the weeks go by. The consideration as regards this aspect of track training should always be: Some training should be done at goal pace with sufficient rest to achieve the desired speed. As time progresses, the speed remains the same & the recovery reduces. While other training should be with a fixed, reduced recovery at best possible pace. As the weeks go by, the pace increases & the recovery remains the same.
How reps & sets are arranged within a workout: This is discussed in more specific detail later, but the idea is, that while the athlete is fresh, the repetitions are longer. As the athlete fatigues, the aim is to maintain speed, but reduce the repetitions so that this is doable
Speed of reps: Simply put, when the recovery is reduced the athlete is attempting to run at goal or target pace, while when the recovery periods are long (in most cases 3:00 or longer), the purpose of the workout is speed endurance, where the athlete is running partial distances (as related to the actual race) at a speed somewhat faster than goal pace. Let’s assume an athlete has an 18:12 PR for 5km & is trying to run under 18:00 in their next race. A short recovery set might be 6X800m in 2:50 to 2:52 per 800m, while a speed endurance set might consist of 4X800m with 3 – 5:00 recovery, in 2:40 to 2:45
Current pace versus goal pace: This concept speaks to the law of specificity. For true improvement it is most logical for a runner to accurately know what their current fitness level is, relative to the event they are training for. To discover this, either a test set should be run that accurately provides this data, or an event of a very similar distance can also serve as an accurate assessment, like an 8km or 5-miler to determine 10km current shape when using comparative data. This pace is the athlete’s current pace. From this a realistic goal or target can be set for an upcoming event. Training therefore should be designed relative to this pace—the target pace. If an athlete is in 19:30 shape for 5km, (93.6 per 400m), as determined by an acceptable 5km test, he or she can feel confident that training at 89 – 91sec per 400m will put them on track to run a faster 5km under similar conditions after a significant period of training (approximately 6 weeks or more)
Altitude versus sea level: If training at altitude for a sea level event, it is important to consider that while the physiology of the athlete may become suitably conditioned to deal with the effort required to run at sea level, the athlete might not be conditioned to run at the actual speed required at sea level. In other words, while the athletes motor might be strong enough to achieve the desired goal, the gearing in the transmission may not be suitable. It is therefore essential that athletes do some training over shorter distances at the correct speed with more recovery. The shorter distances & increased recovery are essential at altitude to achieve the increased pace
Road or Track race: Though often considered harder, track races are faster than road races all things being equal. The track is flat, the distances easy to verify & check against pace & wind is evenly distributed if a factor. So when training on a track for a shorter road race, it would be wise to factor in the nature of the course being trained for & make the necessary adjustments so as not to be misled or disappointed by the result. If the course being trained for is hilly, the athlete would be wise to incorporate some specific hill training to condition for this aspect


Added possible explanations of what the athlete is trying to achieve with these workouts:

· A specific race time: This has been covered in detail above under Current pace versus goal pace. Also consider that when determining a target time that there are many, many variables. Being attached to an outcome without considering these variables would be very foolish & disappointing. Consider the test variables versus the race variables. Take the climatic conditions on race day into consideration. Assess the progression of training realistically & objectively. Also consider the mental, emotional & even spiritual factors that come into play—the relative importance of the race plays a big role, (Olympics versus National Championships, as an extreme example)
· Conditioning to have the necessary speed—speed endurance: This has been covered in more detail elsewhere. It is ,however, helpful for coach & athlete to bear in mind that having “speed” somewhat greater over slightly shorter distances than the race being prepared for, significantly improves the athlete’s ability to “cruise” more ably at the desired race pace
· Conditioning to have the necessary strength—muscle endurance: This concept has also been specifically covered & it bears repeating that not only the fitness achieved through short-recovery repetitions & hill repeat training will improve race results remarkably, but the athlete who has mastered this type of training should enter races significantly more confident in their ability to achieve desired results. The “experience” gained in this type of training most accurately mimics that of actual racing
· Conditioning to time trial: Even pace brings the fastest time. When racing an event as a time trial, in order to achieve a specific target time an athlete will succeed most easily if the pace varies no more than 3% from the average time required to achieve this result. To run a desired time that reflects an athlete’s fitness requires accurate pace judgment. It also requires an acceptance of the fact that in order to run at even pace, ever-increasing concentration & ascending perceived effort will be required
· Conditioning to race athletes of similar ability: Very often athletes train under ideal conditions, alone or even with training partners who are there to support. While the athlete may arrive at a race ready to achieve a certain time under ideal laboratory-like conditions, the reality of racing against others of similar ability is a very different animal all together. It is advisable again to apply the rules of specificity & practically prepare for the many possible permutations a race might assume. Once the desired fitness/ability has been achieved, coaches & athletes should design training to simulate the competitive scenarios that might arise. This will include varied pace within a given workout; training to surge, to run at uneven pace, to go out at a pace that is too fast for the entire race. Training should empower the athlete to run to their strengths & mask their weaknesses through sound tactical approaches that have been mastered in training


I like to use the following considerations when I design & interpret training results:

Only train for 5000m and faster races on the track, unless specifically training for a track 10 000m race
Do at least a total volume for one session that equals the race distance being trained for, e.g. 5000m total volume for a 5km race
In most cases do not exceed a total of double the race distance for a single workout, e.g. 10 000m for a 5km race. Elite athletes with multiple years of experience, very strong base training periods & mechanics suited to the track can do more
I suggest not exceeding the race distance being trained for with short recovery, before taking a longer recovery. For example a 5km runner might do 5X1000m with 45sec recovery at goal 5km pace, before taking a longer break. If the athlete is able to do more, I suggest that the pace is too conservative (i.e. the goal pace too easy) or the recovery too long
It is a good idea to start with longer reps & then have the ensuing sets be at the same pace, with shorter repetitions. A typical 10 000m volume 5km-pace workout at altitude may look as follows: 5X1000m with 45sec recovery between each 1000m. Then a 7 – 10:00 active recovery, followed by 12 – 13X400m at the same pace with a 30sec recovery

I hope that this has provided some further insight into your training & that the race times & experience of your running or that of your charges improves greatly as a result.

Bobby McGee
© BMES 2006
www.BobbyMcGee.com

Monday, April 03, 2006

INTUITIVE RACING/TRAINING

How to Access What You Already Know, but never Knew you Knew!

From the Olympic hopefuls that I coach to athletes just trying to break through some personal barrier, I always get the same question—“How hard or how fast should I do this repetition, or this run, or this race?”

Invariably I either ask for or have access to enough data to be able to calculate some reasonably accurate answer for them. But somehow I feel that I am cheating them of the wonderful opportunity of being able to take a risk, an opportunity to trust their intuition, which is present in each & every one of us.

Truly great training sessions come from this place of risk and vulnerability. I have read that the vast majority of great ideas from CEO’s of huge billion dollar corporations occur to them while they are out doing something relaxing and informal, not while at the office. So too our moments of true athletic brilliance occur when we least expect them. These times are characterized by a lack of effort and concerted thought. They come from being quiet and allowing our bodies to feel the rhythm, effort and pace. They come from racing from the heart.

When, for example, I prescribe a run fartlek workout of 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1 minute sections, I might for example suggest 5km race effort in the 1,2 and 3 min sections and 10km race effort in the 4 and 5 minute sections. This is a highly subjective guideline when you think about it. How do we really know what pace we are running when the terrain is variable? “Effort” is a poor measure of pace. A fartlek workout basically implies the best effort you can muster for that length of repetition while bearing in mind what else you have to do for the rest of the workout. Its value actually lies in figuring out how hard you can go without falling apart and running slower for the 2nd 4,3,2 & 1 min sections. After all, this is exactly what racing is all about—how fast can I go right now, and bearing this in mind, what can I maintain for the entire distance? Is this not what it’s all about?

I find athletes work much harder when you remove the opportunity for them to assess their pace over fixed distances. If you hear your 1km split in a 10km and it translates into a much faster pace than you believe you can run for 10km, you almost always back off for fear of blowing, even if you feel great! You assess your ability not on how you feel, but on some arbitrary belief that you might not good/fit enough to maintain this pace. While there are obvious physical limitations—if your recent 10km best is 54 minutes and you run through 3km in 12 minutes it is unlikely you’ll be able to hold this pace till the end. It’s a little like skydiving—you cannot ever really experience what it feels like to jump out of a plane without actually jumping. You have to push your perceived limits to see if they really are limits.

Martin Luther King said, "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."
It is said that you cannot cross a chasm in two small leaps—you have to go for it. As long as you temper your training with sound principles, I suggest that you go out there and trust your innate ability and experience and burst through the ceiling of your perceived limitations. Live a little, risk a little, and gain a lot. Life’s no fun if you don’t completely “explode” in some race while challenging your limits. You never know what you can achieve if you don’t lay it all on the line at some stage.