Press Up Challenge

Thursday 17th February 2011

This is stupid. I should have never started.

In November, a couple of friends and I decided to take on the Marathon Talk Press Up Challenge. The philosophy behind it is that anyone can get fast/strong/fit by just increasing their exercise load by a very small amount every day, and with no effort, suddenly you are capable of feats you never previously thought possible. This is known as the ‘Training Effect’ and I agree with every aspect of it besides the ‘no effort’ bit.

The challlenge involves training one’s body to do three sets of 100 press ups by increasing the number in each set by one every day. Some people start from 1; we started from 5. Now, I know that any gym monkeys with hefty triceps who are reading this are laughing at the easy target we set ourselves, but do remember that we are runners, not a breed of human known for their upper body strength.

The only other rule is that if one person is unable to do their press ups due to illness or other circumstances, the others have to stay on the same number until they have caught up. This ‘all in this together lads’ attitude appeals to me (and gives me an easier day when my friends are ill).

Today we did 3×60, by no means the hardest day yet. I have found that the higher into each ten you get the harder the effort seems. So 40-44 felt fine but 45-49 were really tough, and this had been the case throughout. As a maths teacher, certain nunbers appeal to me more than others too, particularly the ones that are easily broken down to make the task seem easier. 60 was fine today – it’s 30 sets of 2, it’s 6 sets of 10, and so on. Multiples of 5 are fine. Even numbers I can just about tolerate. Prime numbers are horrible. I’m dreading 83 and 97 already.

Our current predicted finish date is March 29th. I really can’t wait.

Footnote: The men who conceived the idea are doing their 3 x 100 at different stages of the 90km Comrades Marathon in South Africa: At 30km, at 60km and at the finish. Insane.

General Running |

Mile Reps

Mile reps are one of my least favourite sessions and this week’s session was no exception.

My training partners and I are roughly following a cycle for our Tuesday sessions that goes: k reps, mile reps, 2k reps, 3k reps, time trial, which means that it’s about a month between similar sessions. The beauty of doing sessions on a 4- or 5 week cycle is is gives you a monthly update on the progress you are making. When I’ve got time I’ll also trawl through the 2010 sessions to see how my times compare to a year ago.

The update this week was a promising one, which I see as an indication that the high mileage experiment is starting to pay off. I feel stronger and more able to run on tired legs. No surprise really, given that that my legs are rarely anything but tired these days. I managed 5 reps, compared to 4 last time, and this time off the back of a heavier preceding week. The splits were also better, with an average of 5:12 compared to an average of 5:15 in January. This was mainly to do with the presence of a clubmate running them at a similar pace to me. We shared the work out. Well sort of. We ran at a comfortable pace for 3, I did one on my own and then tried in vain to chase him down on the fifth.

This session was probably the toughest I’ve done for a while. I probably haven’t trained this hard since the Autumn when I did 10x1k on my own. Heavy wind and rain added an extra challenge that was probably more mental than physical.

I can’t say I enjoyed it but certainly got a lot out of it. 8 weeks until London!

Training Summaries | , ,

Monday 14th February 2011

Perfect Monday morning viewing.

This is a perfect reflection of the amount runners think about running and how little other people understand, and it sums it all up in just under 6 minutes, which is just about my mile pace for the marathon. Oops.

General Running |

Illness? What illness?

Sunday 6th February 2011

This week I got ill. Nothing terrible, nothing life threatening, just the kind of cold that tends to befall most British people at this time of year. With my long term running goals in mind I decided to take 3 whole days off running, as well as missing my Thursday track session. It could have been so different however. I know that 2 or 3 years ago I would almost certainly have tried to train through it. You see, most runners like to think that the rules don’t apply to them; they believe that unlike the other runners who are mere mortals, running when you can barely drag yourself out of bed, let alone to work, will not affect you. Who cares if you’re running at half your normal speed? Who cares if you’re coughing up colours you didn’t even know existed? You got your run in and that is the most important thing.

I confess that I am often guilty of taking this approach to illness. Distinguishing between discomfort and injury is an important part of being a successful athlete, and I have been considering why we find it so difficult to make this distinction.

One explanation that I can think of is that most amateur athletes, of which I am one, have 2 main reasons for doing it. The first is the ‘runner’s high,’ the thrill of a great run, the adrenaline and the endorphins. Put simply, running is addictive. That’s not to say that it is fun all the time, but every time we run we go out in search of the same thrill. The second reason is competition. We run to better ourselves and to be successful, and to improve our times and placings. Now, most of the time these two elements work together to great effect. We run for the thrill and as a by-product we improve. Job done. However, when illness or injury or severe fatigue rear their heads, a problem arises. One part of the brain says run. The idea of having to face the withdrawal symptoms associated with taking time off can be a daunting one for the dedicated runner, even if training means making yourself feel worse. The competitive part of the brain urges caution, focusing on long term goals and the need for the body to recover. A logical, rational thinking outsider would not understand what the problem is, or why we even consider running as an option when ill or injured.

I was pleased I did the right thing. A few days later and I feel fine and raring to go again, indeed stronger for having allowed a full recovery. But still a little voice nags, telling me I shouldn’t have missed those runs. I can see why people find runners hard to understand.

General Running | ,