Variety is the spice of life!

The world of coaching and training is full of big words like, specificity, adaptability, variability, marmalade but hopefully not ambulance!

I recently had some firsthand experience of why variability is so important in a training program and I thought I would share my experience.  This is a real lesson in do as I say not what I do, the curse of many a coach!

I spent much of 2011 recovering from an Achilles injury which I picked up last winter but as I started back running during the summer I wanted to set myself a goal.  I picked the Art O Neill Challenge, a 55km ultra run and started back into regular running.  I picked a couple of ultra run training programs off the inter-web and tailored them to fit around my life and fit into to my 14 week lead in.


I wanted to keep the plan nice and straightforward and used my coaching nous to make sure I would get the most from it.  I started nice and simple with some short runs and aiming to build up each week.  The rule of thumb here is the “10% rule” this simply means increasing weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week this reduces the risk of injury.

I also wanted to create some variety in the plan so I mixed up the length of the runs, the routes I was doing and the terrain with some nice cross country and hill runs each week to add to the road miles.  I also decided to change up my footwear using Five fingers and zero drop shoes along with my trail runners, all to varying degrees of success.

4 weeks in and the plan was going great and the weekly mileage was climbing nice and steady.  I was keeping loose with long stretching and foam roller sessions after each run and some torture (I mean therapy) from STL at Go Tri Therapy. 

So with the base miles sorted it was time to up the pace a little and get some leg speed and mix up the sessions a little.  Off I go, ”right legs lets up the pace”, nothing, that’s odd, I try again, still nothing! 

( mike’s logo from mike’s next adventure is to row the Indian ocean!!)

I feel pretty good, fit and strong but the error of my ways became quickly apparent.  In my desire to build steady miles and stay injury free I had done everything to this point at the same pace, slow!  In doing so I had trained the muscles in my legs to plod along but when it came to changing gears there was nothing there, I needed to fit a new gear box.

Although I had in some ways varied my training, I had missed one main area.  This was varying the speed/intensity of the runs.  There are a number of ways to do this; Intervals are a very popular and can be done on the flat or on hills for extra power.  ‘Fartlek’ which is a Swedish training method and very popular among Orienteerer’s and cross country runners and is great for extra variety.  Also great for developing race pace are ‘Tempo’ runs, simply put long runs working at or near to race pace for extended periods (min 20minutes), a good gauge for these runs which I like to use is that they should be “Comfortably hard”.

So although I knew all of this I had not listened to my inner coach and became a tunnel visioned runner clocking the miles.    Fortunately for me I realised the problem reasonably quickly and for the past couple of weeks have been working to reverse the problem while also building up miles.   Progress is slow but the leg speed is now returning and I can turn up the speed at will once again.

Lesson learned I hope!

So if you have set some goals for 2012 and want some help in getting there drop us a line to we will put a fool proof plan in place to guide you to success.  We have made all of the mistakes and put our bodies through the mill so you don’t have to!

please check out our new Madventure Marathon website, a race to test and excite inner freedom


The Guru : Living and learning

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