Saturday 30 January 2016

Can we calculate what might constitute a junk mile in marathon training?

Runners often worry that they are wasting their time and effort doing slower additional miles - distance that is referred to as junk miles. But, how do we know when we are heading towards junk miles and the quantity no longer makes up for a lack of quality? What follows is a simple logical extension of a marathon performance prediction equation and how it can be used to calculate when it is not worth running an additional mile - just how slow does it need to be before it is junk?

Friday 29 January 2016

What makes you a faster runner - pace or distance?

Before I show what actually happens if one trains in the lands where 'dragons may lie' (long distance slow running), I thought it might be a good idea to consider what we know or think we know about those lands. Common phrases suggest that running high mileage at slow pace is not a useful strategy for a performance runner - Running slowly makes for a slow runner - Junk miles - Quality not quantity - Race pace training - Tempo running is a key session - He's a plodder - No pain, no gain!

However, we also know that elite runners engage in high mileage - or at least relatively high mileage - compared to most club runners. So, what does that training space look like when plotted on a graph?

Thursday 28 January 2016

Filling the training parameter space

The marathon prediction equation produced by Tanda (2011) did not look at the performance of any sub-elite runners, his fastest was 2:47. In this post I have added in some data from a few faster runners - the results are surprising.

Tanda (2011) - A viewpoint

Giovanni Tanda (2011) looked at the marathon performance of 22 runners who had run a total of 46 marathons (over a 5 year period) at near flat-pace race effort (halfway splits <±4 min) - i.e. near optimal aerobically limited efforts. He looked for correlations between marathon performance time and the following elements of the training diary (warm-ups and recoveries were included):

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Predicting marathon performance from training data

Those who train for a marathon following a pre-prepared plan, of which there are many available, should have a reasonable expectation of achieving their goal: a 3:15 marathon plan should get you a 3:15 marathon time if you execute both the plan and the race appropriately. Unfortunately runners train in the 'real-world' where sessions get skipped and targets missed. The effect of failing to precisely execute 'The Plan' is hard to predict. Can missing one day/week really have a measurable effect? The lack of predictability presents a serious problem to many runners and can lead to injury as they attempt to make-up for missed sessions or bonk badly in the race by failing to scale back their speed to match their lack of diligence in training.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

What is a training load?

Training: pushing adaptations in limiting systems

Most runners training for a marathon follow some form of standard plan containing a mix of running speeds and durations with a gradual build towards race day. The plans are constructed to induce adaptations within different systems that might limit marathon performance. These plans also contain elements that enable further training to occur - i.e. the concept of training to train. Whilst most runners are aware of the standard adaptations that are required: muscle mass, glycogen content, mitochondrial density and enzyme expression, capillary density, 'fibre-type', circulatory capacity (stroke volume etc), tendon and bone strength, mental capability, 'endurance' there is often little understanding as to just how specific or non-specific the types of training are in terms of the adaptations they produce. The result is that there is sometimes an impression that particular types of training can produce disproportionately large benefits. There are three of those types that have developed cult followings within the community: tempo running, hills/hard intervals and the long run. It is worth - very quickly - looking at some of the evidence supporting a benefit of one type compared to another.

Monday 18 January 2016

Meeting the load

Physiological control systems - hypertrophy and atrophy

Running a 'fast' marathon requires a body prepared for the stresses that arise during the race. The order and extent of the stresses depends upon the relative effort expended by the runner. Training is usually considered to be the best way of adapting the physiological systems such that they do not fail dramatically during the race. The degree to which different elements of training prepare the body is often considered to be highly individualistic - Everyone is different - is a common refrain. The underlying idea being that what makes one person fast will not necessarily work for another.