So most of my beliefs on training revolve around the ‘Lydiard Method’… in simple terms you build a solid foundation of conditioning with a large base of aerobic training before you even consider doing anything too specific like speed work or ‘hard’ running. I think the main reason new runners stop after a few weeks or find their early training so painful is because they are dipping into anaerobic training because of poor conditioning and all the horrible effects that has, lactic acid, muscular breakdown etc… If that means you have to intersperse your running with walking, then that’s what you have to do. Even after nearly 30 years of running if I miss a spell of training as a result of injury or illness I’ll always go back to simply running comfortably and building a base for several weeks before I do anything hard.
My training now is pretty simple, I’ve found through trial and error over the years that I respond well to large volumes of steady aerobic running, mainly off road over soft hilly terrain like the bridleways and public footpaths around Hitchin, with a small percentage of training at or close to my goal race pace. Even if I’m training for a race of 10k or half marathon I’ll still always do a long over distance run on Sunday mornings of around 2 hours. Running for me has never just been about the competition, I like getting out into the countryside or the woods and discovering new places and routes.
I have 3 young children and run a business with my wife so time is always tight but because I’m self- employed running helps to give structure to my day so I’ll usually be up early at around 6.20 to run for 30-40 minutes. I’ll then run again either at lunchtime or in the evening from work. When I had my best results I was running to and from work, it was a really efficient use of time and running point to point always feels more purposeful, even in the heavy traffic of London I still found it fun.
Most days I’ll cover between 12 and 15 miles with maybe a few more on Sunday mornings, once per week I’ll do a specific session that is geared towards a competition that I’m targeting. I used to run 2 sessions per week but as I’ve grown older I’ve found that counter-productive. If I’m aiming for a 10k the session would be something like 2 miles warm up followed by 6 x 1mile at my target 10k race pace or slightly slower off 90 seconds recovery jog and then 2 miles warm down. Over the weeks I would progress the session as my body adapted and my race drew closer so over 6 weeks the session might look like this.
Week 1. 6 x 1mile off 90 seconds
Week 2. 2miles, followed by 4 x 1 mile all off 90 seconds
Week 3. 3 miles, followed by 3 x 1 mile all off 90 seconds
Week 4. 2 miles, 2 miles, followed by 2 x 1 mile all off 90 seconds
Week 5. 3 x 2 miles off 90 seconds
Week 6. 2 x 3 miles off 90 seconds.
This 6 weeks basically shows how you can break down the race distance into manageable blocks week to week as your condition improves, the recovery remains the same but the distances of the efforts increases, an alternative way of doing it would be to reduce the recovery, so in week 1 you get 90 seconds, week 2, 80, week 3, 70 etc…
This is a core session for me, my 10k breakdown is to run 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile at goal 10k pace off 90 seconds recovery or slightly slower, it teaches pace judgement because if you get it wrong it can be very tough on the 2nd and 3rd reps.
Most other days I’ll run at an easy/steady pace, if I feel good I might pick it up, if I’m struggling I’ll slow down. Running makes you very in tune with your body and you start to know when things aren’t quite right or are going well. Once per week I’ll do something like 15 x 100 metre strides with a jog or walk back concentrating on form, I might sometimes do this on an incline too.
I think the best advice to any runner is ‘time on your feet’, the benefits of longer runs and aerobic conditioning are far greater than the return you will get from speed work, hill repeats, intervals, it’s the most gentle and I think healthiest way to improve gradually, unfortunately it’s time consuming. I don’t really buy in to the ‘silver bullets’ that you often read, like ‘run 50% less and run a PB!