Sunday, November 01, 2009

Which training plan is the best?

Robert Song wrote a comment on my last post (The Secret to Running Faster) which I thought worthy of discussion. Yes friends, there's not a lot happening in this Australian territory of running heaven. Spring has finally arrived — sunny days in the 20 to 30° C range have replaced the wet and windy ones of less than 10° C. I continue to train — weeks of 63, 71, 64 and 90 kilometres have included 3 sessions of Pete Magill drills. I sense a slight improvement in my stride, but it's a work in progress. Fingers are crossed that this particular work isn't of Sagrada Família proportions.

Anyway, back to Robert Song's comment: "Maybe if you shaved off your beard and hair, it could make all the difference to your performance ;-) You seemed to have tried every other plan going around."
This is true! The bit about trying every other plan, not the bit about running sans beard and hair — that's not going to happen! I like trying different training methods out of curiosity. I want to see what effect they have on my body. I'm not in a desperate quest to find the holy grail of training methods. I don't particularly mind if a training method produces slow racing. I spent the year of 1984 doing "high quality, low mileage" training (two track sessions, a race and other runs at a good clip), which produced unspectacular races. In that year, my 3000s were around 10:30, whereas when I ran with higher mileage I was usually in the 10:00 to 10:10 range. Such is my curiosity for experimentation.

Now I also know that "high quality, low mileage" works brilliantly for runners of a certain body-type and talent. So I don't dismiss this type of training out of hand. The drills sessions that I'm now doing would work well within any type of training plan. In a high mileage plan they'd have to be on a day/run when one's legs are feeling good, so that would need a little finessing. I'm finding myself waiting for such days even on my current moderate mileage. Doing drills with dead legs isn't a great idea!

The following photograph is from this year's Lake to Lagoon Fun Run. My sister Jane took it, and the location is just two blocks from the family home of my youth. I ran this race in the late '70s when it used to go in the opposite direction. I like the ever-so Australian EH Holden in the background. Our family car was a slightly newer HK Holden station wagon.

Racing on a sunny day in Wagga Wagga#1656 hangs with the mid-pack 3k into the 2009 Lake to Lagoon Fun Run


Blogger Runner Susan said...

I was expecting a shaven you in the picture. Maybe if you shaved your legs instead of your beard you'd go faster. Or even your stride would get longer? Somehow I don't think any shaving is going to happen.

We had a Chevy wagon growing up; it was so long it wouldn't even fit in the garage. My father had the great idea to spray paint it light blue and dark blue. I think I made him park three blocks from where ever I needed to go. Who knows, maybe that's when I discovered I could run . . .

12:12 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ewen, as you say, much of the interest is in trying to find what works best for you. The question of how to get the most out of training when your body no longer recovers so quickly from hard sessions is a special challenge. I think your present plan of doing drills is an excellent idea. The challenge is ensuring you start with sprightly legs so that you are able to experience the exhilaration of doing the drills well. As you know, for the next few months I plan to do most of my ‘hard’ sessions on the elliptical cross trainer so that I have fresh legs for the sessions devoted to improving my neuromuscular coordination. Today I really enjoyed my ‘near-to-sprinting’ session. I was aiming to run with a relaxed style and my Polar clocked me at paces faster than 2:30 min/Km – at least for 50-60 metres. I do not think Usain Bolt needs to worry yet. However, because I was trespassing on the local college rugby pitch, I was pleased to think that from a distance, an observer might have thought I looked more like a student than an escapee from the old folks home. I am not sure it will make me a faster marathon runner, but it is fun. So good luck with your drills, but whenever possible, do them with fresh legs.

6:27 am  
Blogger Girl In Motion said...

Great photo! You look fantastic there. Glad you're keeping the facial hair, it works for you. Besides, Kara Goucher has way more hair in her ponytail.

I LOVE the Holden, never saw one before. Totally my kind of car.

Good on the drills, that it's already producing results is pretty great. Good luck with future training experiments, it's always good to try new things, you never know what will hit that perfect chord.

7:38 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

sounds like the speed/style drills are a good addition.

Ive always thought a 1-2 hour, or longer, long run is the key component.

Then either a medium length run or some intervals or both are second priority. Third priority would be the speed/style drills.

Agreed High mileage or Low mileage seems to work for various people. Some seem to thrive on lots of intervals and easy recovery runs, others like an 8k-30k run every day, or maybe 2 of those every day.

crosstraining be it team sports, cycling,swimming,hiking, or in my case my day job (meter reading walking around the streets for hours each day), skiing, gym, etc etc etc also seems to help...

easy weeks and hard weeks is good.

Maybe 2-14 days where you go on holiday from it all and forget about running altogether.

Samson in the Bible lost his strength when his hair was cut.

Its interesting the way some of the older legends seem to live on better than the new stuff, like the old holdens...
good photo.

family first rule is also a good one.

9:13 am  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

I just have to go there ... "sprightly"!! I can just see an aging sprightly Ewen with long hair bounding past ... No, I mean I can see him, there he goes now!

9:54 am  
Blogger strewth said...

No, you wouldn't look like Ewen without a beard - it might well be a "Samson" for you. You just need Delilah! Good luck with those drills, they seem to work for you. I'll persevere and maybe one day they'll work for me too!!! Good piccie!

2:47 pm  
Blogger jojo said...

yep high quality low mileage sounds like me(well it doesnt feel like low mileage to me(its more than i used to do) but it is PALTRY compared to 'real runners'

5:53 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Like you Ewen I have tried just about ever type of training possible, but have you tried ‘Reverse Running’, invented be Swedish running guru Dr Norbit chisslehammer of the applied science department Zenburge Norway..
Dr Norbit has found that by running backwards its possible to reverse the aging process. His greatest success is training 72 year old grandma Greta Wolfsteinn to run this years New York marathon in minus 3 hours 45 mins, a new world record!
Greta says “ I look and feel 20 years younger!
Dr Norbit recommends running backwards for an hour every day to stop and even reverse the aging process and you can now buy his book and Dvd at all good book stores and at his online website;

3:45 am  
Blogger rinus said...

You can saven your face, and maybe you go fast ;-).
In Holland we go to the winter whit rain and wind, ik like the summer, but not to hot!!!.
Nice running pic and your sister do a good job, do she run?.
Groet Rinus.

5:02 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Susan, if I were a super cyclist like the chef I'd shave my legs. Chevys are the US Holdens!
Canute, that's good advice about doing drills with sprightly legs. I'll think about Speedygeoff when I'm doing them. I love the image of you sprinting like Usain Bolt. We often forget the simple fun of running fast.
Flo, thanks. I'd grow a Kara Goucher-style ponytail if it helped me to run faster. My next plan might be the "Flo Philly" plan.
TB, agreed about the longish run (and one day of intervals). And "family first" is always the #1 rule.
Speedygeoff, I hope to be as sprightly as you when I "grow up" ;)
Strewth, the Samson-style beard is there to scare away those masses of Delilahs. That's the secret of my strength - avoiding Delilahs!
Jojo, you ARE a real runner. Your 800m PB is to dream for!
Rick, you're always the source of great ideas for experimentation. Sure you weren't on the warm beer when you came up with that one? Actually, backwards 'springy' running is a good drill!
Rinus, you should defy your wife and grow a beard! That will give you a mean marathon PR for sure next year in New York. My sister is a bush-walker, but was very competitive at sport in her youth. We Thompsons hate to lose!

1:37 pm  
Blogger Aurimas Pocius said...

Hi, Ewen :)

My name is Aurimas :)
I have read your blog today :) I love running as you do.
I made a website about running for beginners :)
I want to ask you one thing.
I want to make a place in my website where will be runners interviews. Not elite runners, simple people with running passion. Why? Because it's much more inspirational. I admire simple people who love running. They can encourage others to run.
It would be a place where people can see and say "I can run too:)". That would be just great.
What do you think about this?
I will ask simple questions about running: why running, when did you start, what are your goals and so on?
I am looking forward to your answer :)

Have a nice day :)

Best wishes,
Feel the joy of running:)

9:22 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

I don't know if "Aurimas" is being nice or having a dig when he says "I admire simple people who love running." I've never thought of you as "simple" Ewen.

By the way in line with Ricks suggestion. Have you tried sleeping in the fetal position and wetting the bed. It might take you back to your youth and have you running faster but there is a danger too that they might just think you have dementia a ship you off to an old age home!

I wonder if "Swedish running guru Dr Norbit chisslehammer" wears one of those hats with a wind fan on it?

4:18 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Physical Benefits of Backward Running and Walking;

2:17 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...


2:26 am  
Blogger Aurimas Pocius said...

By saying simple I didn't mean that Ewen is not a special person. Simple - not elite runners who can run marathon faster that 2.10. I think that people who has running passion have pretty much interesting stories about running. They do it for pleasure, not for medals or money.

2:49 am  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

In that case you are right Aurimus, Ewen and the rest of us are "simple" folks.

I watched the you tube video of Ricks "backward runners" and now I'm convinced that Dr. Nobert Chisselhammer is not unlike my old unlce Barry who used to walk the halls of his home at midnight discussing the tidal reports with a boiled egg he fondly refered to as "Jimmy."

11:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I reckon the best way to improve stride length Ewen is hill sprints, not too long but long enough to build strength in the legs, say 60s . I feel a lot stronger when I get in hill sprints regularly.

2:16 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

We just love our hill sprints.
Could Ewen run them even faster if he were being attacked by a suicidal chicken?

4:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wannabecoach said seriously for once:

Kathy is correct re hill sprints however consider sprinting down a gentle slope as well. That will force your stride to lengthen.

4:16 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

maybe this would help Ewen improve his speed!

3:26 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Scott, you're hilarious! Quit your day job and give stand-up comedy a go.
Aurimas, 'tis true. As Scott says, I am simple, and easily qualify as slower than 2:10 for the marathon. Good luck with your website. I run because I want to be as special as Speedygeoff when I grow up... or perhaps Scott's Uncle Barry.
Rick, I always look to you for interesting links. Those backwards 4 x 100 boys were fast. 62.55 for 400m! And despite Scott's cynicism about Dr Norbert Chisselhammer, why not? I'd like to live to age 98 like those Japanese folk, so if backwards running's the secret...
Kathy, thanks for the tip - I'll try the 60s sprints for sure. You have a great stride! I recall wannabecoach using them (up Hospital Hill), when he was running his best times.
Speedygeoff, if only I hadn't chickened out on all those hill sprints, how fast would I be now?
Wannabecoach, another good tip! Although I think I may need a "less than gentle" ski-jump style downhill slope to get up some decent speed (or find a cooperative camel to which to tie myself).

4:20 pm  
Blogger CJ said...

Gee after reading your previous post I'm in trouble if short stride length means slower running as we age - my short legs ain't going to get any longer! Mind you, it would help if I was actually running rather than just visualising it. Lucky I'm a patient person though patience is getting mighty thin.

10:00 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...


6:19 am  

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