Monday, February 11, 2013

Heeding Alberto's Advice

The lead up to the Tussock Traverse race coincided with a 10k training plan in my book where the mileage and intensity gradually increased, but now for the next two months the schedule cuts back to shorter distances, and to be honest it is all feeling a bit easy.

I've been toying with jumping ahead to the next stage of the training cycle as I'm a little impatient and have a few races on my calendar where I'd like to do the best I can.  But something this week has convinced me to stick to the plan, and resist the urge to skip ahead.

That something was in the book I'm reading at the moment - Alberto Salazar's Guide to Road Racing.  I'm enjoying it a lot - it covers a lot of the usual stuff but explains it in a way that gels, and there are a lot of additional pointers that I haven't read in other books.  I've learnt a lot and I'm only up to Chapter 5!

But let me share with you the bit that convinced me to stick to my plan.  We all know that an increase in training volume should be done gradually, and Salazar does mention the popular 10% per week rule, however he "prefers a slower buildup of no more than 10% per month" followed by a plateau period.  He states "it is unwise to increase your weekly mileage by more than about 25% in any given 6 month period.  Even at that rate, you could go from 20 to 50 miles per week in two years - an enormous change".

Conservative eh?  Are you tempted to speed up your progress faster than that?  I know a lot of runner's definitely do! Here is Salazar's reasoning why not to:

"If you're tempted to accelerate the process, the risk you run is a succession of nagging injuries.  There are several parts of the body that have to adapt to the stress of increased mileage, and they do so at different rates.  Aerobic conditioning comes first, with muscle strength following closely behind.  That's why so many people try to proceed too quickly: once your muscles and cardiovascular system have adapted, workouts feel deceptively easy.  What you need to remember is that tendons, ligaments, and bones also need to adapt - something they do fairly slowly.  Bones are the slowest, and the potential injury, a stress fracture, is the one I most fear in beginning racers."

So your heart and legs feel strong relatively quickly when you step up your running, but the connective tissues and bone take longer to increase in strength. Muscles have a rich blood supply allowing them to grow and repair at a faster rate, compared to ligaments and tendons that have a relatively limited blood supply.  Since these are what keep our joints and muscles working in alignment, they can be the weakest link when it comes to injury (remember my knee niggle...).  Obviously this fact is even more important for beginner runners (me!), and with age (me again!).

So - no more thoughts of jumping ahead in my training plan!  It might take a bit longer to reach my goals, but I want to run for the rest of my life - so I've got all the time in the world!

How rapidly do you allow yourself to increase your training volume?
Have you suffered any injury because of increasing too fast?
Read any books by Alberto Salazar?  I remember him being a rock star runner when I was at school!


  1. I haven't read any of his books, but thanks for sharing the details on why you shouldn't increase the mileage too quickly from his book. Very informative!

  2. You are being so, so smart! In the RRCA certification last weekend, we also talked about how much slower tendons and bone are to adapt than the cardiovascular system. This is perfect timing for me... I'm always walking that line, trying to determine how much to increase without getting injured. And I've had my fair share of nagging injuries. Sounds like an awesome book!

  3. So true!! It's incredibly tempting to run more miles when you're feeling good & so hard to just stick to the plan sometimes. But when I've made this mistake in the past I have definitely ended up losing miles in the long run due to having to cut back to deal with injuries or proto-injuries. Trust Alberto!!


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