On the first day of October I forgot to record my day’s training on my training log. And then I forgot the next day. And the day after. By the start of the following week I couldn’t remember exactly which runs I had done when, and how far I had gone on each occasion. I then realised: it doesn’t matter.
Several years ago, in the post-log book and pre-Strava era, I decided to start keeping an online record of all my training as a means of maintaining motivation and of being accountable to other interested parties. If they could see what I was doing, I thought, it would keep me on track and putting in the hard work. I also believed that, added to over the course of several years, it would become a useful document that I could refer back to and learn from. I would know exactly what types of sessions preceded successful races and what kind of training I should avoid in order to prevent injury. This seemed like a wonderful idea but it contained one flaw: I never did any of this. I kept habitually adding to it but never using it. Yes, I reflected, via my weekly posts, on the training I had been doing, but my training log largely existed for no other reason than the fact that I didn’t want to break the habit.
The habit is well and truly broken now. Coupled with my lack of motivation to update my log, I have also got out of the habit of wearing a watch for most of my runs, so even if I wanted to piece the jigsaw together again I wouldn’t be able to. The era of the training log is over. I have noticed small and unexpected changes as a result of this. For a start I genuinely don’t care how far I run on any given run. Additionally, I have stopped paying attention to my weekly mileage, something I could have told you to a fairly good degree of accuracy for any of the previous 400 weeks of my life. No longer do I add an extra loop to my run to make the distance round down to 12km rather than 11km. No longer do I set a target volume for my weekend’s training to hit certain weekly mileage targets. And most importantly of all, I am going easy on my easy runs. With no watch to tell me my average pace, I no longer seek to increase the effort to bring the average pace under a certain abritrary number. Typing this, I know how ridiculous this all sounds, but I am not the only one. Many people I know and train with are guitly of all of this and more, and none of it enhances your training.
But what does enhance your training? High mileage, tempo runs, interval sessions, strength and conditioning sessions, speed work, sleep, good diet, recovery runs, stretching, long runs, rest days…
The list goes on and I do everything on it. There might not be any evidence of it any more but the best evidence surely comes in the form of results in races, and these will continue to improve if I focus on doing the right things rather than documenting them. It’s liberating.
This week was the first proper week of training after tearing my calf at the National 6 Stage four weeks ago. Since starting with some light jogging last week I have gradually built up the volume, whilst adding slightly more intensity towards the end of the week.
My calf is fine. I know this, not just because I managed to run 127km this week, something I am told is not possible with a calf tear, but because the scan last week showed that what once resembled a large hole was now a smooth meaty chunk of well formed muscle tissue. However, this doesn’t stop me worrying that it is suddenly going to go again. I find this amusing. As runners we train ourselves to be able to ignore pain; it is an incovenience that needs to be overcome at all costs, a sign of weakness and I’m not weak, thank you very much. But when you return from injury the opposite happens. You become aware of every little tightness or sensation of discomfort, convinced that it is a sign that the injury is returning. The kind of small niggle that would barely raise an eyebrow under normal circumstances now becomes a clear indication that the injury is back again, and probably worse than it was before.
This may well be down to the fact that in order to succeed in this sport you need to be all-or-nothing with it. You will not manage to put in all the hard, difficult training if you aren’t convinced that what you are doing is the most important thing in the world. Sadly the flipside of this belief in the importance of what you are doing is the sense of loss when you cannot do it. The fear of this triggers irrational reactions to pain and a heightened feeling of worry.
We’re now half way through the year, so I thought I’d write some thoughts on how my running is going. I’ll start with the numbers. Yesterday I took the opportunity to add up my mileage for the year to see how much I’ve done:
Days so far: 180
Number of runs: 205
Rest days: 28*
Km run: 3134
Miles run: 1948
Km per day: 17.4
Km per week: 121.9
Although numbers themselves don’t tell the whole story, they still tell me quite a lot.
Firstly, I have had more runs and more rest than in previous years. No, that’s not a typo. This year I have made sure I have a rest day every single week without fail. I have then been doing double days a couple of times per week to keep the mileage high. I have found this to be hugely advantageous psychologically; knowing that my next rest day is only ever a few days away allows me to put more effort into the training I am doing and it means I never lose my hunger or feel like running is a chore.
Secondly I am running higher mileage that I have in previous years. My weekly average is 122km or 76 miles, with the odd week significantly higher or lower, but with most falling in the 115-135km bracket. This helps. Although I didn’t feel like it was getting me anywhere at the start of the year when I was still recovering from injury, I now feel stronger than ever before. Running in the morning before work, though tiring at times, really does seem to help the recovery process. In fact, when I roll out the door at 5:30am, I have no choice but to run easy and couldn’t push the pace if I tried. This keeps the pace within the ‘recovery’ zone and I get the intended benefit. Even if it does mean feeling a bit sleepy after lunch at work!
Thirdly, and you won’t find this in the numbers, I feel I am training smarter not harder. I am getting better at making my training sustainable by not killing myself in every session I do. Pushing yourself to the limit has its place, but not all the time, and it is important to be able to save your best for races rather than sessions. Training over unusual distances (on road in the winter and grass this summer) has stopped me getting obsessed by the numbers on the watch, and focusing more on putting in the right amount of effort. Although I don’t have the PBs to show for it yet, I feel they are not far away if I keep training the way I am.
*this includes any day when I haven’t been running and are indicated by a zero in the training log. In some cases I have had full rest; in others I have been cycling or for a long walk.
In part 1, I looked at the different ways in which people record their training. In this post I will tell you about how I’m going to change the way I record mine.
I will still use this site for storing all of my training logs and will continue to post regular training summaries but these summaries will no longer show my annual mileage to date. The main reason for this is that I don’t want to get obsessed with hitting certain numbers by certain points of the year. It’s nice to know when I’ve passed 1000 miles, 2000 miles and so on but it isn’t really the point. This year I will probably end up running just short of last year’s total but have run quicker over just about every distance, the exception being 5k (I ran one second slower than my PB). Mileage serves a purpose but I want to do everything I can to encourage a quality-over-quantity approach. I will check every couple of months and at the end of the year but I’m not going to worry about it any more.
The second change is that from the 1st of January I am going metric. I have a friend who trains in metric and I’ve decided to do the same. The reasons are similar to those listed above. Although I know how to divide by 1.609 (and have in fact become quite good at it), this should stop me comparing myself to the me of one year ago. I also tend to get hung up on certain numbers; I like 70 miles per week because it is 10 miles per day, 90 miles sounds good because it’s near the upper end of my range. Hopefully that will stop now. Besides, it’s easier to put 100 in your training log if you’re doing ks and not miles. And it’s more logical.
So, a couple of changes to how I log my miles, sorry, kilometres. I just need to remember now that it’s how you run them, not how you record them, that matters most.
coming soon to this blog… running targets for 2013
Regular readers of this blog will know that I record my mileage on this very site, and usually post a weekly training summary too. Most of the time I don’t write much about my runs, unless something significant happens that I would like to be able to recall in years to come. But mine isn’t the only way of doing it. This post examines some of the other ways that my training partners record their training.
#1: The old school book.
In case you don’t know whether that’s old-school book or old school-book, don’t worry; I don’t know either but they amount to the same thing. Last year I witnessed the training logs of my friend Rob who was a very good middle distance runner in his day. There was something very charming about the hand written scribbles that denoted the runs he had done. This way of recording your training allows the athlete to record splits, distances and comments in whatever way he or she likes, and adds an air of authenticity to the training log. You can use any type of book you like, but the purist will always go for a blank notebook.
#2: In various places
This is another well known method of recording your training. My friend Mark has his training written down in books, word documents and spreadsheets and he informs me that he is currently in the process of standardising over a decade’s worth of logs to the same format. I look forward to seeing them.
#3: The ridiculously complicated spreadsheet
Another of the guys I train with does this. Tim sent me the latest version of his spreadsheet recently and it really is a thing of beauty. It contains details of every run he has ever done, every race he has ever completed as well as every run that he plans to do for the next year. The training plans are the best bit, colour coded according to the type of training to be done – blue for lactate threshold, orange for long runs, yellow for intervals, dark green for weights and conditioning… That’s about half of them. It also has a PBs page, where as well as times for standard distances you can also see how fast Tim ran for less common events. This is useful if you ever forget how fast you ran for 4.2 miles back in 2007, or if you’re struggling to remember what your beer mile PB is. I also like the mileage graphs which tell you what proportion of each week was spent doing different types of running. The ridiculously complicated spreadsheet is a sight to behold. I hope he has it backed up.
#4: Not recording your training at all
Another good friend of mine does this. I can see how it might be liberating but there’s no way I’m trying it.