Posts Tagged ‘hill sprints’

Small Changes Keep You Healthy

A detailed training log for the week is here.

Running seems so simple, and I guess it can be. Just lace up your shoes, or not, if you’re the barefoot type, and head out the door.

One danger we face, however, is running the same mileage and pace over the same surfaces while wearing the same shoes. Just so we can cross the workout off of the ‘must-do’ list.

Pretty. But not what I want to face everyday.

I live in suburban San Jose, Costa Rica and there isn’t a single road in my immediate neighborhood that stretches more than about three quarters of a mile before turning into a giant hill or series of hills, that don’t necessarily lend themselves to fulfilling every day’s training plan.

While I appreciate the benefits of running rolling hills, it’s not something I want to do on every run. So I run only the (relatively) flat sections of my local neighborhood, basically making a turn anytime I come to the foot of a hill that’s large enough to represent a significant change in the training stimulus.

The risk I run (no pun intended) with this technique is traveling over the exact same portion of road and running surface on every run, every week.  The body needs different stimulus in order to adapt, recover and grow stronger. Running over different surfaces and in different shoes causes slight changes in which muscles, tendons and ligaments are stressed and by how much. All of these tiny variables contribute to fitness.  Never change the input variables and your body will likely respond via fatigue at one end of the spectrum and overuse injuries at the other end.

To keep my legs fresh and confused I like to mix things up ever so slightly.  I rotate among three to four different pairs of shoes, ranging from a fairly neutral trainer to an extreme minimalist flat. Each day that I run I alternate the direction from which I leave my home, allowing me to cover the same local loop but covering the crests, ridges, potholes and crowns from a different angle. During any single run I will also move to the center of the road, whenever safe to do so, so I have a flatter surface beneath my feet, and I also move off into the grass for about 1/8 of a mile each time I pass a local park.

As far as pace and strength are concerned, once a week I run a series of hill sprints after an easy paced run, and on other days I add fartleks into the mix. Each fartlek I run is on a different section of the road or grass: some on flat stretches, and others may be either ascending or descending ever so slightly.

While seemingly insignificant during the actual run, over time these small variables can make a big difference in our fitness, performance and injury prevention.  Not to mention, if you’re limited by your local geography in regards to running terrain these small changes can keep you feeling mentally fresh as well.

###

photo credit

Don’t Let One Dictate the Other

This week my training took an unexpected turn as I was forced to start my transition to road running much sooner than anticipated.  As it turns out, the death of our gym’s treadmill was prematurely reported and I now have the option of mixing both surfaces into my training plans.

My first run on the road a few days ago was both a positive and a concerning experience.  I didn’t come away with any swelling or acute pain, but my legs were completely lost in regards to rhythm, pace, cadence and stride length.  I finished the 5k in my fastest time yet, which wasn’t the day’s objective, but I also finished with nothing left in the tank and gasping for air.

As a middle-aged, novice runner I am in no position to offer up training advice to anyone.  But I’ll break that rule today to share this point: do not let your pride dictate your training pace.

Slow and steady today. No HR redline.

My current goal is to train for and complete the ING Miami Half Marathon in January of 2013.  The biggest obstacle I face in completing that task is aerobic capacity and endurance.  Not pace.  Not speed.  Not the desire to finish under some magic number that has embedded itself into my brain as respectable.

Today I headed out for my second run on the road and I made a promise to myself not to look at my watch’s pace indicator.  In fact, I reprogrammed what data it would display before the run so I could only see the distance covered and the total elapsed time.

I pretended I was performing drills, and leaned from the ankles ever so slightly, just enough to get me moving, and I tried to maintain that body position for the remainder of the run.  Guess what.  I never felt tired muscularly until the final mile.  I never gasped for air.  I never questioned if I could keep running.

I run four days a week, and am slowly increasing my weekly volume.  I perform hill sprints at the end of at least 1 run per week.  And I will always try to negative split my easy runs, regardless of how slow the overall pace is.  But something clicked today that although I was already aware of, had not experienced fully until now.  Slow and steady is the race I’m in.  Train for it.

###