There are times when motivation gets rough. When the going gets tough. When plans get derailed even long-term, like weeks on end. Handling this, is crucial in case of development, in case of further progression. When listening to one of Canova’s speeches, there is one aspect of Kenyans training though what never gets out of hand. That is speed. When there is a track workout, they all start together, like 30 runners and possibly at the end there will be only 3. They start with speed. Not with distance or distance at speed or duration or whatever. Speed !
To make you understand, here is the very simplistic example what he, Canova, gives all the time. When you tell to a European or American runner, do a 10km tempo at 30min flat and finish with 10 x 200 @ 30/30 at the end, they start thinking.
“- My 10km best is 29:30 and he asks me to do what ? Nono, I cannot do that. I do 10km @ 31:30 and then go with the 10 x 200 @ 33s.” It is because they think at volume and current volume of intensity and capacity. Kenyans do the opposite. They jus start at speed and see how it goes. If they go off the pace, they stop. Next time it will be better !
Of course there are certain pre-requisites for this type of approach. Quality lifestyle and nutrition, proper running biomechanics, mobility and health. Around 10% of runners I know would be capable of training like this, but it is their fault. Inflammatory behaviours and environmental factors are mostly present.
The most important is knowledge. For each training period there are prescribed paces. For 200 / 400 / 600 / 800 and other repeats there are multiple pace and recovery time ranges, depending on the wanted outcome of the training. For instance 8 x 400 @ 1:17/r1:10 will do a totally different thing for you than 14 x 400 @ 1:21/r40. Or a 30 x 400 @ 1:28/r1:00.
However what you don’t do is to have a total linear approach and try running each time faster 400s in the same workouts ! That is non sense ! However this is what happens, when you go on a big group track workout and get carried away. Then have a sore calf, inflamed achilles, catch the flu, get 3 days of depression. Running is not only muscular. It is systemic. Your lymphatic system, heart and lungs, your digestion, nervous system and all gets affected by it. It is a real full body workout.
Your goal is adaptation to a certain pace and pace ranges, so your body will be familiar with the stresses associated with your future race pace. If you constantly over-stress your body by running faster and faster, you will be burnt out, damaged and injured.
The goal is to increase volume of intensity ! Volume of current training intensities and race pace volume. If you checked Daniels’s VDOT chart, for each of your goal races, you will have a part of a spreadsheet dedicated with multiple workout paces.
Actually training is exactly like an RPG. No, not a rocket-propelled grenade from Counter Strike. An RPG: a role-playing game. Exactly ! I am handling it like one and it is fascinating.
In case of Daniels’, if you were level 60, it means that your big boss, your final enemy, will be a 35:22 10K race to tackle. On the way, your medium enemies will be stronger and stronger, but in the meantime, you are still easily chopping down goblins. This means that you are getting the confidence, resistance and strength from easily attainable work, means jogging, easy running, long runs, but handling hard, moderately hard workouts very well.
Time to time, you face a pit-boss. These are the crucial well periodised see-god workouts. You might have 3 or 4 of these during a period of 12 to 16 weeks. Very often these workouts are surprises. You won’t see necessarily in your training cycle in advance, that huh, this will be hard. I had a 2 x 5km tempo last weekend, that I did not anticipate to go well, but I smashed it confidently and easily. On the other hand, just 4 days before I did a very easy 12 x 400 @ 1:21 – 1:23 + 45sec recovery, I mean it should have been a super easy workout, but I was really struggling. See-god workouts are extremely hard, but you push through them. It is not struggle, just hard work, when body is ready. For instance in the last period I had 3 x 1600 + 4 x 200 + 10 x 10sec hills. I lost the legs only on the last 2 hill sprints. I had to rejuvenate my life force and mana afterwards for about 3 days.
There is usually one mid game enemy, killing the Dragon-master, what we can call a breakthrough workout. These are the ones what are giving you a flow of confidence. Like handling a 5 x 1600 @ 10km race pace /w 1:15 recoveries. These are not perceived as hard because you are at a flow state, but they have a very positive impact on your perf. Very often these happens when you run with a pacer or in a group.
And finally the race. You collected all the gems, coins, armour, weapons and your life-force and mana are also topped up due to the taper and rejuvenating potions, you go for it. The BIG BOSS. If your pacing is correct, starting out at race pace or slightly slower and finishing even or slightly faster, you should be alright. However if you attacked the beast with full on magic tricks, throw all your exploding satchels, used up all the body protecting shield, you’ll be left with one single sword against a gas and fire blowing monster, mauling you with it’s spiked mace.
If you realised your mistake, back off and finish smart, you might not win, but the difference will be only small of 10 to 20 seconds. In case of a 35min 10km it is not a lot. Train smart, recover and repeat it in a couple of weeks. Even on the track solo. You’ll be able to win.
So when the shit hits the fan, we might have to cut volume of certain workouts and add to others. Stresses sometimes do not let us to complete them as prescribed. However, what we don’t do is cutting corners and decrease pace to achieve the required number of reps ! That will lead nowhere. What you have to understand that the human body goes through stages of fatigue and these affect different systems differently.
For instance: You have a 10 x 800 @ 2:41/r2:00. This is an advanced speed and associated recovery what is necessary for you to continue with your training towards a definite sub 35min 10km.
You have multiple choices. Modify the workout’s objective. For this you have to know, where you’re at in the actual cycle and what the modified workout will do or risk in case of your race.
10 x 800 @ 2:56 /w 1:20 rest. This is a threshold pace and will develop your endurance and fatigue you less. Probably a good conservative choice.
Or you can go with (4 x 200 @ 37/r37 + 2 x 800 @ 2:30/r2:30 + 4 x 200 @ 37/r37) rest. You have to know your body and see how your previous 200s and 400s went with full on speed and when were they present. This is a risky one, but in some cases, still a great choice.
The best option is however, to keep the original format, but decrease the volume. To keep it simple, just do 8x or 6x. In case of a 10km runner, even 5x 800 is 4km @ higher than race pace. That is 40% of the race ! You can play with the recovery too. Like dropping 3 seconds for each rep. Starting out with the 2min and going down to 1:42 before the 6th one.
What you don’t do is stick to the 10 x 800 but complete them at 2:44 or 2:45 because you were afraid of the intensity.
The second thing what you don’t do is cutting volume and adding intensity: 7 x 800 @ 2:37/r2:00 , because you feel like having leg speed but afraid of volume.
These pace ranges are not far enough on the spectrum to trigger other physiological benefits, than the original workout would do, however imprint bad habits and laziness or risk injury !
I’d rather go on a slight downhill slope and make sure that my form is perfect and running the repeats there. I would have higher turnover, my speed would be perfectly executed, so the neuromuscular triggers would be definitely pulled, but the effect of blowing up my cardio would be slightly diminished. I talk about a 0.3 to 0.5% hill. Not a full on 6% downgrade !
I am at this moment in the baby boom period. Sleep disturbed, eat fast, not fast-food, but at higher than normal speeds and work a lot. I have great endurance and great speed, but crap speed-endurance. Threshold workouts suck and just cannot get on with them. I do my 200s with 30 to 40 sec recovery , they are fantastic, I even add volume to it. Instead of 12 x I do 20x. My 400s are okay, except the medium fast ones with medium recoveries. The 5 x 400 @ 1:15/r1:30 works out fine. The 12 x 400 @ 1:21/r45 is fine. However 12 x 400 @ 1:17-1:18 /r1:00 kicks my ass. The weekend 2 x 5km @ 3:50/km is fine on the road but 5K @ 3:40/km doesn’t work out on the track. My 800 / 1000 and mile repeats suck.
I however understand that these things are only “momentarily” and not full on fitness related. So If I cannot do anything about it, I go to the workout, start and cut it short when pace drops. I can still add hill repeats at the end if needed. Or, I sleep in for 2 or 3 days, increase my mobility and breath-work and when going for the workout, I am ready !