Monday, December 31, 2007

Questions about Winter Training

We recently got a question from one of our readers (The Red Line, huh? nice username.) about winter training, specifically geared toward the 3200:

So I have a lot of questions about winter training..... How should young runners (about one year of experience) go about winter training?
What the overall goal and how does it differ from summer training?
What percent of intensity for workouts?
If we are training for a race in May, is doing full workouts in December ok?
What should be more built up for the track season our anaerobic or aerobic fitness?
Should an aspiring 3200 runner train different then a 800/1600 runner?
And any other valuable "Tid-Bits" of info just so that i can get a better understanding of what Winter Training truly is/does!!!

-Thanks in advance!!

An aspiring, but beginning runner shouldn't go overboard their first winter of training. Definitely do a slow build-up of mileage, always in reference to and working toward your peak mileage goals for later in the season. Some programs do this buildup of mileage per week as a percentage of your peak mileage for the season, starting at 50% for the first week and then building up, with a slight dip in mileage every three to four weeks, throughout the winter.

Personal opinion from Joey- I think it's best to get to about 90-95% of the mileage you will want to run all season by the last week of your base period. I then think it is important to keep this mileage all season except in "down weeks." I didn't do this my senior year before cross country and ended up being at my best mid-season because I had dropped my mileage so early, then staying at pretty much the same fitness level until state, maybe 10 seconds faster over 3 miles, but not that great of a peak. For track I got up to a mileage, then tried to keep it all season long until the taper at the end, except for down weeks which I took at about 70% of peak mileage. By doing this I was able to have a better peak and dropped seconds off my 3200 every time I had a major race, case in point, the three times I raced it competitively; 9:36, 9:34, 9:30, 9:21. When I did this, my biggest week was the week of the 9:30 at 71 miles. That winter my biggest week was 69. The idea behind this keep your mileage up then taper idea has to do with glucose stores. While you are in more intense training, your body needs to produce glucose in order to fuel you for the training you are doing. Now if you do 70mpw from January to May, then cut your mileage down to 30mpw as I did for the last few weeks, your glucose stores go crazy, all the glucose you have been producing is now being stored for when you need it instead of being used a whole bunch every day. You get to the line on race day, you aren't sore because your training isn't leaving you dead and your fuel stores are up. Muscles have hardened as well do to getting proper rest. Of course you will have a great race on this day.
-In addition I watched the progress of some high schoolers over the course of cross country who did a lot of miles in the summer but dropped them when the season started, (case in point 70mpw summer, 40mpw in season) did great in the early-mid season then ate it in the post season. Their aerobic base wasn't getting better, and though they were in roughly the same shape as mid-season, they were expecting to feel better and it hurt them mentally in races more than physically and led to bad post-seasons. Their glucose rise and muscle hardening had happened months earlier.

The goal is really pretty much the same as summer training. You are trying to build an aerobic base upon which you can add speed later. At this point, base/foundation runs are emphasized, which are just your basic runs at base pace that you will do for almost every run of the week. Base pace is not an exact science, it is basically what pace you can run, day after day without getting too tired for between 4 and 10 mile runs. Long runs should be at roughly this pace as well, whether your long run is 8 or 15 miles.

On top of that, some speed maintanence is recommended about 3 times a week after you finish a foundation run. One simple way is just 4-10 100s on the track at a quick pace, emphasizing proper technique and form. A good way to build into these is to start your first 1/3rd at mile pace, your middle ones at 800 pace and your last 2 or so at 400(basically all out) pace. It is very important to keep your form when doing these, your top speed will be at its best when everything is working fluid and efficiently. You don't want to do these with bad form because you will then get bad form into your muscle memory when you are running fast and though maybe your fast twitch muscles will be firing as best they can, you won't be going as fast as you can. One way to do speed that I think helps a lot is as follows: after a good warmup and a couple striders, then do a few more strides at a quicker pace. The first 30 meters or so you want to accelerate, then for 30-50m go all out, while keeping form of course, then decelerate the last part until you have gone about 100-110m or so. The key to these is taking a LOT of rest. The more rest you take, the better your muscles can fire because the creatine stores in your body need 5 minutes to recover and fire at their best again. So by taking this much rest, your muscles are able to fire at their freshest and thus their fastest and thus your top speed improves best by taking a lot of rest. You don't need this much rest for strides per say, but when doing that workout, the closer to 5 minutes rest, the better. 3 is pretty good too.

If by full workouts you mean intense interval workouts, I would certainly advise against that. The whole point of those workouts is to sharpen your speed and get used to your race pace later on in the season. This doesn't mean to cut out all workouts though. Jack Daniels has proved a lot about the importance of early intervals, but with high rest and not too high of intensity. If your workouts are 5k pace, say 1000s or 800s and you are getting between 3 and 4 minutes rest, and you are doing only 5k worth of running, thats fine. This type of work isn't so much anaerobic as efficiency work. If you are doing intervals that don't tax you too hard, they are working on your efficiency at a given pace, and your V02 max to an extent. Workouts at 10k pace and tempo pace are great too, they help lower your lactate threshold.

In the winter, 800/1600 runners and 3200 runners hardly need to do different training at all. Maybe the mid-distancers need more top speed work, such as strides and the thing mentioned a couple points up.

For workouts, another thing to remember is that you are mainly working at date-pace. That means that if you are hoping to run sub 4:30 and 9:50 or so, you should not do workouts at that pace now. In most cases, you are not even as good as you were in cross country. If your 5k pace was 17:00, its probably around 17:30-45 right now unless you have been doing your workouts too hard in which case you have screwed over your peak.

As far as what winter training does, it helps develop an aerobic base which will help in your season, it helps build speed, it gets you ready for the season's workouts and it helps build efficiency. Simply put, by running more you are building your muscles to be efficient at running. Your muscles form to landing, your muscle memory gets good running mechanics. You build capillaries which help transport oxygen through blood to the essential muscles. You build mitochondria which help fuel you better and produce more energy etc. By doing winter running, you are maintaining all your systems, most importantly the aerobic system which works so hard to bring oxygen to the muscles that need it. You are really getting ready for in-season workouts, without winter training it would take months to get to the point you will be when you start the season by maintaining your cross country base. Long term aerobic development, thats the key. Consistency and just keep building mitochondria and capillaries. Long term, uninterrupted aerobic development. Let me reiterate. Long term aerobic development.

So yeah, don't go too hard or fast in winter workouts, keep things at date pace, don't drop your mileage too soon, keep normal runs at base pace, do your speed maintenance with good form, and mid distance and distance don't need to train terribly different.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks! This was very helpful.