FIND THE SMALLEST CHANGE YOU CAN MAKE THAT HAS THE LARGEST IMPACT
Training for running is a complicated manner. Building miles, doing hills, and a little speed week in and week out, while being intelligent enough to take recovery and absorption weeks, is not second nature. Usual it presents itself as build, build, build, too much, flare up, adaptation, recover, start training again. Now, it’s not as predictable as that. Our bodies can handle different amounts of repetition, and experience differing amounts of fatigue and soreness, thus the individual aspect of training.
For myself, it’s random, when it hits, it hits hard, I get negative, I adapt and adjust, and I do my best. What I’ve learned is that I like consistent repetition. I like quality over quantity, and I like variety.
Here are a few notes and things to consider about fatigue, soreness, and recovery:
- Running Fatigue/Pain (trail): When it hits, or develops after a solid training week or two, be mindful. One or two rest days will most likely not cut it. Planning a rest week, with a few short (3-6 mile) maintenance runs, and plenty of cycling, swimming, or aqua jogging will do you good. The key here is being mindful and adaptive. Large volumes of quality running are needed to prepare you for the 100 mile distance, but they do come with a price tag. Consistent steady mileage in mountain/ultra/trail running is much tougher on the body than flat track/road/gravel running mileage.
- Strength Training Fatigue/Soreness: This is a different beast altogether and should, intuitively, make a lot of sense. You’ve loaded a muscle and worked it to a point close to exhaustion, and are going to “pay” for 24-36 hours as the body rebuilds and repairs muscle tissue. This can’t surprise you and you must place it strategically in your training. I like Saturday or Sunday as the time to strength training. Usually Monday provides a full recovery day, with the next “quality” run training arriving on Tuesday. Take note of areas of particular soreness. This can be enlightening and is revealing of potential weak points on your body. Lateral movements are tough for runners, as you weighted exercises in the form of squats and lunges. Glutes, hams, and groin are places of tenderness after a session involving movements that are “full-range”.
- Fatigue: general fatigue is a necessary evil when you ramp up your training volume. Again, recognizing that this is normal, and adjusting accordingly is the wise, but often ignored, move. What’s agonizing about fatigue is that it does not simply go away. You may need to completely remove this stimulus from your life to shed systemic fatigue. Again, this is not the end of the world, but you do need to be prepared for it with some cross-training options and strategies.
- Recovery: non-impact exercise is king here. The bicycle is brilliant. Ankles, knees, hips… they will all be happy you decided to spin some miles either every other or every third week. Intervals are a welcome addition to the training, even in a general recovery week. When “ultra-training” is in full swing the intensity demand is not at it’s highest levels. The fatigue we experience is from the mileage, climbing, descending, and technicality of the trail. It’s consistent full-body trail running that wears us down. In summary here, do some intervals, push yourself in the pool or on the bike, create a demand for nutrition and come back to running with full vigor the next week.
- Absorption: Click on that link. Very informative article. Hard, demanding workouts take 9-15 days to fully absorb and see the benefits from. No long runs (over 4 hours) are needed 4 weeks before your key race. Speed development runs, fartlek, or interval work (reps), can be absorbed in 1-3 days. Hence, when you taper, stripping volume and adding sharpening workouts is key to being ready to go on race day.
Important notes, but remember you are your ultimate experiment. I think we sometimes forget life is just that, a continuous experiment. We are taught to expect a “glorious sunset” and in believing this idea we neglect to learn from our past; mistakes, missteps, what led to success, what sets us up to be at our best, patterns, progressions, etc. I believe cause and effect, the idea of karma, accumulation of flow-state behavior and thinking deliver us to the place and time of the experience I or accomplishment we imagine.
If on analysis you find that you went too far in your training or racing, avoid being self-critical. When things are going good, we figure this “green light” means we can do more and more. This mood and feeling can be so strong that we ignore “yellow light” warnings our body is trying to communicate. Past training history success/failures should be the guide in planning future training.
I’ve written in the past on the one-hour training session. If you simply cannot follow a concrete training plan, or prefer to workout on feel, organically, I would advise you to employ the one-hour maximum length to your sessions.
Be conscious. Analyze behavior. Dissect outcomes. At the end of the day, be content.