Training Principles 101

Hi Everyone!


Well, we got our first taste of Spring on Sunday. More days like that ahead! Yes, we’re in for some roller coasters of weather, but … it’s coming! And speaking of the weekend, many of you did some really big training runs as we’re in the thick of training for upcoming Spring marathons. Way to go. Take these big runs seriously. Treat yourselves well afterwards (eat, sleep, relax). It’s only “training” if you recover from them. Otherwise it’s just breakdown.


Special shout-out to Madalyn and Steph who ran virtual half marathons and both got PB’s!!! 1:33:28 for Madalyn who also PB’d through 10K, and 1:34:09 for Steph! Way to go you two and to everyone else who put solid work in this weekend! (And thank-you to Culture Athletics for putting on the ICEE Half Marathon to help support local efforts)


What I’ve been thinking about lately is our obsessive need to compare ourselves (not our fault – we’re wired as humans to do this) but how this can be detrimental to our training process. I’m talking about both comparing ourselves to our past selves, and comparing ourselves to others. We are in an interesting time with social media where we can see exactly what elite athletes and others are doing as training. And it’s easy to take the logical leap that if you could just do what they are doing, you would be as fast as them. But this is not how it works.


Training is a process of providing a dose (the workout), experiencing a physical response (breakdown), and then benefitting from an adaptation (building back stronger for the next time). That is all. There is no formula that says “if you run this, you will run this”. Nobody knows that for sure. What we do know is that to get a bit better than where you are now, you need to provide a dose that is large enough to stimulate a response, but not so great that your body is thrown into chaos and doesn’t know how to adapt. If I see on Strava that an elite runner ran a certain workout at a certain pace, I might be tempted to go out and try to replicate that so I can get to her level. But what I’m forgetting is that that runner is doing that particular workout because she is at a level of fitness that requires that dose in order to stimulate a response. If I don’t need as large a dose because of where I currently am, then doing her workout is a prescription for breakdown for me. I will have a stimulus, and some sort of response, but I won’t adapt. It is too large a leap. Our physical processes don’t leap over chasms. They build step by step.


Elite marathoners are now experimenting with a training system by Renato Canova called the “Special Block”. This is an extremely intense day where they run a tempo, followed by intervals (up to 20K worth) in the morning and then repeat the entire sequence again in the afternoon. They do this because these athletes are already running a huge amount of mileage and great loads of intensity. They have built up to this with years and years of 2-a-day runs. They now REQUIRE this amount of work in order to provide a stimulus outside their standard so that they can improve. If any of us tried to replicate that we would end up broken and gutted and would probably not run well again for weeks if not months. One person’s perfect dose could be another person’s poison. Be thankful if you don’t need that much!!!


So let’s be smart. Doing more because other people are doesn’t make you tougher. It means you are not doing what’s right for you. Even trying to replicate what you did 2 years ago when you were in peak fitness after months of training leading up to a race might not be what’s right for you right now. I’m not saying you won’t surpass that, but honour where you are in that step by step process. Just take the next step from where you are.


On to tomorrow’s workout!


Remember when we did 800’s on that windy icy day and I said we’d repeat it in a number of weeks to check in? That is now. Here is the workout:


  1. 6-8 x 800 w 1:30 rest. Let’s aim for 10K pace.
  2. If 800’s at 10K pace are something you’re working up to, I suggest 6-8 x 600 w 1:30 @ 10K pace. That is a great dose and you don’t have to do what other people are doing. As a newer swimmer I am respecting this process. I am happy to do 150m of other peoples’ 200m intervals in workouts. Because that’s where I am and it’s the right challenge for me!


That is all – see you in the am! (6:05 for drills, 6:15 go time)