Sunday, March 8, 2015


Well, it has been a long time between posts and something I plan on rectifying.  Someone once said to me that we all make time for the things we want to do!

A question I get asked a lot in clinical practice is “How do I get the best out of my training in order to achieve my goals?” or words to that effect.  So I thought I would attempt to shed some light on the topic of “training optimisation” especially given the endurance trail running season is upon us.  So I have penned some thoughts with long distance trail running in mind, however the principles can be applied to other distance and other sports.  Here are some variables to take into consideration.

DISTANCE  best running group around!
How long is the event and how should I go about preparing for it?  A general rule of thumb is to aim to cover the distance of the event in one week’s worth of training.  Ie:  100km race; reach 100km of training the week approximately 3-4weeks out from race day.  Periodisation of training needs to implemented in order to gradually build to these levels without succumbing to injury or illness.  For example:  use 4 week cycles to build up distance and time on your feet progressively over 3 weeks, followed by a recovery week similar in distance/time to the initial 1st or 2nd week of that macro cycle.  Start conservatively, build gradually and hasten slowly. 

How long will the event take me to complete?  Aim to spend up to 50% of this time on your feet in training in one session at a pace slower than what you will be competing at.  This allows for hydration and nutrition plans to be tried and tested, develops mental toughness and preparedness and allows for the musculoskeletal system to harden and adapt to training.  This needs to be at sub-threshold levels….long, slow and steady conversational pace.  This pace is important so that the system isn’t stressed or over-reached.  Allow time for recovery before the next session and ensure that the next training session isn't hard or fast.  

Take the time to enjoy and breathe!
Ensure that your training program adequately trains the aerobic system.  This can’t be stressed enough.  This is the foundation upon which the all physiological systems of the body depend upon for long distance events.  Long, slow, sub-threshold training should be the cornerstone of your training.  Once a solid grounded base has been achieved over at least 8 weeks (at least 2 macro-cycles) only then should specific higher heart-rate sessions be included and only then for sessions strategically positioned into the training program.  This allows for adequate time to recover from harder sessions and prevent any injuries.

Local Noosa Trails

What type of surface/terrain will I be running on? Technical single track, wide fire trail, mountain goat ascents/descents, road, stairs.   Attempt to mimic this in training as much as possible in order to prepare the legs for what will be required.  If a large portion of the course is technical, then this requires a specific skill set that needs to be trained prior to event day.

Mt Solitary in the Blue Mountains is a popular training ground 

If your event has 4000m of ascent gain over 100km, then training needs to simulate this; e.g: broken down into 400m+ of ascent over 10km.  Practice different methods of ascent to mimic your climbing of these ascents during your race.  How you ascend and desend early on will vary later on in an event when you are tired and fatigued.  This is particularly important for ultra-events where power-hiking steep uphills will be required and often this is something we often don’t practice enough in training.

Aim to train in environmental conditions similar to race day.  Often this is not possible when travelling interstate/internationally, so aim for training in the coolest/warmest parts of the day to simulate your race environment.  Be prepared with your hydration, nutrition and electrolyte needs ahead of time.  Also plan to arrive in your race destination with plenty of time to acclimatise.  A general rule of thumb for events at elevation is to allow at least 1 day for every 1000ft of elevation above sea level.  Expose yourself to the elements on arrival in your race destination and allow the body to adjust.  You need to get out and move in the new environmental conditions and not just sit at the nearest caf√©!  This assists with acclimatization physiologically but also allows you to test the adequacy of any gear specifically required for an event in a unique environment.

“One can not underestimate the power of rest”. This probably deserves blog of its own.  Recovery should be the cornerstone of every training program.  Physiological changes and adaptations to training can only occur when the body is allowed to rest.  Recovery and rest can take different forms and there is a large body of evidence to support active recovery such as: light aerobic activity different to that usually trained.  Recovery also is largely influenced by nutrition and hydration strategies, musculoskeletal strategies (physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture etc) and sleep! Finding the right combination for you is as much and art as it is science.

So, there are some areas to consider when planning your training program for your upcoming event.  

Enjoy those trails, enjoy your training and remember "Mistakes are proof you are trying" Anon

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