October 4, 2008

The Five Training Principles I Live By

When the sun rises at 5:15 a.m. on June 27, 2009, I will be taking my first steps on the Western States 100 mile trail. But those first steps will also be the final steps on a much longer road, the road to prepare for that day. That morning I will have already traveled over 2,000 miles by foot during the previous 10 months. I will have encountered many obstacles. I will have experienced bouts of frustration, self-doubt, and even despair along this road. But these experiences, however difficult, will actually help me during those final steps on that day.

I'm told there are no short cuts on the road to Western States. It is long, and unforgiving. To endure it requires knowledge and planning. It also requires dedication and a lot of training. The road I plan to take to Western States will be similar to the road I took this year, with some variations based on what I learned along this road. Starting in March, like last year, I’ll start building my weekly miles up until I peak somewhere between 80 and 90 miles per week. I’ll try to sustain this until I begin my taper three weeks before the race.

I’m not one to write out a really detailed, daily training schedule. What I have learned in my days as a runner is that if I can set and achieve weekly goals, such as total miles, a long run, interval or hill work, I’m better off not establishing a daily (anal) schedule. I might plan a track or hill workout for the week, but I'll wait to do it late in the week if I have to. This flexibility helps because I can’t predict how quickly or slowly my body will recover from training the previous week or weekend. If I plan on doing a hard run on Tuesday, but I’m not ready to do it

My Girls -- Keep Running in Perspective

until Wednesday or Thursday, my experience tells me to wait until I’m ready, or face injury. I also don’t know what my family and work schedule will allow. Weekly goals give me the flexibility to adapt to the unexpected and the ability to focus on key workouts.

I have always been an avid reader of training philosophies and techniques. Indeed, next to my bed sit dozens of books on how to train for endurance running. Some of my favorite books on training, which tend to be loaded with many types of workouts, include Advanced Marathoning, The Maffetone Method, and the Competitive Runners Handbook. What I have learned through reading over the years is that there are hundreds of workouts one can do, but there are really only a few training principles that I need to follow. Sticking to these principles "in the long run" is more important than focusing on specific workouts.

There are five basic principles in my training program. These are quite simple.

Principle Number 1: build and maintain the aerobic base. In its most basic form this is simply building up and sustaining weekly miles.

Principle Number 2: develop the body’s ability to burn fat for fuel. This requires doing a long run every other week.

Principle Number 3: grow the body's capacity to run faster at a lower heart rate. There are many methods to do this, but running intervals and/or hill repeats are pretty fail safe. As a ultra runner, I'm running these at or below my anaerobic threshold.

Principle Number 4: teach the mind to deal with the adversity that it will face come race day. This requires doing long runs and races on similar terrain and under similar conditions as the race I'm training for. Be it heat or hills or both, training in these elements prior to race day is critical not only to perform well but to be safe.

Principle Number 5: keep smiling while the mind and body want to scream out loud. This is my sanity check. It means to take it easy on easy days, to always recover well after hard workouts, and to simply stop once and a while to look at the sky, the clouds or whatever is around me!

So, come next June, as I pass through the hot canyons, and make my way up the long, sweltering switch backs of Devils Thumb, my mind will begin to drift. It will drift back to the road I took to get there, and the challenges I faced along that road. And as I near the river crossing, and the sun has begun to set, my mind will turn back to the task at hand. It is then that it will encounter familiar signs. Frustration, self-doubt, and despair. But, by then, my mind will know these experiences as old friends. And it will know they are only there as companions to see me along my way.


Greg said...

Wow, dude, you got me totally pumped up to go running! Excellent post for those of us who don't immerse themselves in the minutiae of running by keeping detailed logs, etc. (the anal route). The "big picture" points you make are excellent, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yo Willie

What about nutrition as part of your 5 principles? Coolest runner blog on the web.

Will Cooper said...

Nutrition? Beer, wine and Triscots are what I live by, but I don't know if I can recommend them!

Frayed Laces said...

Woo! WS100! Now, the question is...do you feel man enough to wear purple sausage shorts?

Unknown said...

Thanks for the principles. They are so true!

Anonymous said...

A very exciting year of training ahead for you. Good luck! Bummer that you didn't get to run Western States this year. I hope next year goes off as planned.

simplifique said...

tks for sharing.