Training Changes: Start Small

As I wrote last time, I'm in need of some changes to my exercise regimen.

One thing that has helped me a lot in other aspects of my life is, once having identified a problem, to make small and incremental changes, one by one, until I arrive at a desired result. I find it easier to adjust to new things if I don't have a lot to adjust to. That is, it's much easier to turn your life around one step at a time than it is to become a completely different person overnight. At least, it's easier for me.

With that in mind, I started thinking about what kind of changes I wanted to make to my exercise regimen, and what kind of goals I wanted to pursue. Regarding goals, I arrived at the following:

  • I want to condition my body to run at faster paces. Over the past three months or so, it's become obvious that running under 6:00/mile pace during interval training -- and probably also shorter races -- is not just feasible, but entirely appropriate. I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to cranking out 400's in 75 seconds maximum again, but doing so in under 90 seconds has not been that big a deal for me lately. So, I should embrace that. And, in time, I should seek to dial it down to as fast as possible. With fitness, it's use-it-or-lose-it, and I'm not ready to accept an average pace of 7:00/mile for the rest of my life. I still have a little speed left in me.
  • I do not want to fixate on long races. Marathons and half marathons are fun, no doubt about it. But they also involve a lot of running-for-the-sake-of-running (during training runs) that starts to feel a little mindless to me after a while. I want all of my workouts to serve a productive purpose, I want to dedicate my concentration to that purpose, and I want to achieve that purpose as I run. Then I want to take a shower and go on about my day. Realistically speaking, it's not hard for me to go out and run 13.1 miles whenever I want to. So I don't really need to train for that.
  • I want enough flexibility in my training that I don't feel FOMO for missing a day of running. As I've started to ramp-up my miles, I've noticed a tendency to feel really bad if I miss a day. Not guilty, just... bad. Bad, as though if I don't do at least 8 miles in a day, then I'm going to lose all of my fitness. That's obviously nonsense, but it's hard not to feel that way when you run 8 miles or more every single day and then have to miss a day or two because you're traveling. I can fix this problem by planning a training regimen that is less tied to daily mileage and more focused on -- as I mentioned about -- purpose.
With these goals in mind, I think I am going to return to a training plan that worked well for me during my last year or so in Ottawa. Lately I've been running two fast days per week (T and Th), a long run (S), and a lot of long, slow miles. Instead of that, I'll run two fast days per week (M and W), plus one plyometric workout per week (F), plus recovery days and a long day if I feel like it.

This arrangement will satisfy my first goal by maintaining my current speed workout regimen, while adding a day dedicated to explosive power, which is also a way to increase footspeed.

I'll satisfy my second goal by giving the long, slow miles a bit of a rest. I anticipate that I'll still be doing a lot of those 8-9 mile recovery runs, but with an added plyometrics day, that will be at least one fewer of these runs, and may require a shorter recovery run on Saturday.

I'll satisfy my third goal by dedicating one day per week to a non-running workout, plus potentially allowing myself to cross-train on the various recovery days. I'd rather run than do something else, but by formally giving myself permission to not run, I'll hopefully avoid the pitfalls of feeling as though my fitness is decreasing if my recovery run is 6 miles instead of 8 or, god forbid, it's a bicycle workout instead of a run.

It's a small change, but one that I think will make a good difference for me as I head into the last two months of winter training. Wish me luck.

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