3 min read

The Absolute Best Way to train!

The Absolute Best Way to train!

I’ll admit, the title is a bit misleading but you see this kind of thing all the time. Runners World will post an article (sorry for picking on Runners World for no particular reason!) - “Run your way to a Marathon PR” or “12 weeks to the Perfect 10km”.

The problem here is that there really isn’t a single solution that will get you that BQ or that Western States Golden ticket, or I should rephrase that, because there is, and that’s the way that works for you and your physiology. We are all individuals and we all respond to different stimuli in different ways.

I’ve been coaching a few athletes now for a couple of years, and the one thing I am seeing time and time again (and I’ll preface this by stating that I am in way, shape or form, an expert here!) is that some folks respond well to a lot of intensity, some do better with a lot of volume, and for others it’s a mix. The trick is to figure out what works for you, or if you have a coach, I guess that’s their job!

There are a lot of training metrics you can look at that can help with these decisions, if you are so inclined - I use Training Peaks and I love to watch such things as the ATL/CTL ratio, Normalised graded Pace (NGP) or Power during intervals, longitudinal FTP changes, critical power changes, aerobic decoupling etc, but I love to look at data. Not everyone does, though, and that is fine. It just so happens I am pretty data driven and I enjoy this sort of stuff!

One of the easiest ways to figure out your ideal training style, and the ideal stimulus for you, is to look back at previous races. Think of your best race ever, and if you have some detailed training logs - Strava being the easiest one - look back at the 2 to 3 months of training leading into that event. Sometimes there is no obvious magic sauce, and believe me, I have tried to reproduce these magical races and their lead in by mimicking the training, and it almost never works twice, but it can give you a hint of what your ideal training build up should look like. It’s not always easy to see a pattern, but it’s often a useful exercise.

Another way is to look at those times when you got injured, or felt flat. Maybe something about the training block immediately prior to these events can give some clues. Too much intensity, too many long slow runs, not enough sleep. Detailed training logs with comments are crucial for this to work.

An even simpler method is to simply ask yourself what type of training do you enjoy the most? We all tend to gravitate towards our strengths, and these can give us insights into our physiology. If you love short hill sprints, maybe you’re a fast twitch guy or gal, who will benefit mostly from short bouts of high intensity work. If you’re a grinder who likes nothing more than a 30 minute steady hill climb, and you seem to thrive off back to back long efforts, then that may say something completely different about your physiology.

There are lots of training philosophies out there. Arthur Lydiard had his athletes do 6 months of 100 mile training weeks! That would kill a lot of athletes. Percy Cerutty famously had his athletes sprint up sand dunes as part of their training. Sebastian Coe’s dad, Peter Coe, had him do a lot of high intensity work on the track, along with heavy weight lifting, and not a lot of volume - usually around 30 miles per week. Coe’s long run as a junior was rarely more than 5 miles (8km). And yet all of these approaches led to incredible success on a World class level.

So there is clearly more than one way to skin a cat. Training logs can be a great tool if you are trying to break out of a rut and take your running to the next level. I encourage everyone to write a few comments in their training logs about how they felt afterwards, the next day. Honestly assess how you re feeling. You can add ‘private’ comments to your strava logs that only you will see - I bet you didn’t know that!

And don’t be afraid to try something new, you just might find that 20 x 100m hill sprints really is your secret sauce! Unfortunately this is often all retrospective, and you only know what works after the event, but none of us is winning gold medals at the Olympics (except Erik!) so it’s a fun exercise to keep some detailed comments. Try that private strava trick, it may lead to some really insightful observations in your training!