Monday, November 11, 2013

Training plan for Aranjuez 10K

So, as I have said, my idea now is to try to improve my speed while I still can. At 41¾ I'm hardly at the peak age for athletic prowess but, on the other hand, I've read somewhere that the number of years running should be considered as an independent factor. In my case (not counting my "youth") I've been running for six years solidly now and, while it's clear that the gains are becoming ever more marginal, it is also true that I have acheived a significant PR in all my race distances this year, especially in the Marathon (8 minutes).

Up until now I have tended not to focus on shorter distances and have almost always raced over 10K and Half Marathon distances on route to a full Marathon. As a result, my training has never been very specific for these distances. I recently bought an excellent new book on running called Running Science which brings together much of the latest research in sports and exercise science. I've taken some ideas from this book and especially specific quality workouts.

The three main principles I want to take into account (the first two of which shouldn't be much of a surprise if you have been following this blog) are:

Specificity. Apart from being harder, running at higher speeds is very different from running slowly. In fact, running at speeds of less than 10 kph is so different it is commonly called "jogging". But without going to such extremes, the biomechanics of running at 13.5 kph (recovery pace), 15 kph (Marathon pace) and 17 kph (optimistic 10K pace) are all quite different. Logically, running at 15 kph is good training for competing at 15 kph just as running at 17 kph is good training for competing at 17 kph. Nevertheless, running at speeds faster than 17 kph probably has some kind of trickle-down effect and improves economy at lower speeds. For these reasons, I will try to incorporate as much race pace training as possible and use the "junk miles" to actively recover from these efforts.

Eccentric strength. Especially at these higher speeds, running economy becomes very important. If you study the activation of muscles with an EMG while running, you find that the muscles are not activated during the "push off" phase but rather during the "stance" (quadriceps, arches of feet and soleus are loaded) and "flight" (hamstrings brake leg swing). If you muscle it, you actively contract your muscles in order to pull yourself along; this is much more inefficient than loading your muscles up like a spring in what is called the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC). Normally, we move our limbs by contracting (shortening) our mucle fibres - this is called concentric loading. During the SSC, the muscles are actually lengthening under load (concentric loading): once that load is removed, the muscles and tendons snap back elastically. It's well known, for example, that it is possible to jump higher immediately after jumping from a height to the ground. The downside of eccentric movements is that they more likely to lead to injury as the muscle is clearly weaker in its stretched state. Therefore it is important both for injury prevention and for performance to work on eccentric muscle strength and plyometrics and the Shock Method are the best way I know of to do this. An added benefit might be prevention of cramps. Muscle cramps that occur due to chronic muscle use (as opposed to heat cramps, for example) - Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps (EAMC) - are thought to be a result of an imbalance between increased reflex activity in the muscle spindle and decreased reflex activity in the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO). The muscle spindle monitors the length of the muscles in contraction and can trigger a Stretch Reflex (for example, if a doctor taps your knee). The role of the GTO is to monitor the stretching of muscles and can trigger a Golgi Tendon Reflex (or Inverse Stretch Reflex) which has the opposite effect to the Stretch Reflex of relaxing the muscle (this is why stretching often helps aleviate EAMC) in order to limit possible muscle damage. The imbalance is thought to be due to over-excitation of the GTO during repeated concentric muscle activation. It would stand to reason, then, that training to increase eccentric muscle strength could help the GTO to become more resiliant to fatigue as well as reducing its activity in running. (This is my speculation but I will try to find some research on the matter.)

vVO2Max. "VO2Max" is dead, long live "vVO2Max"! It seems that VO2Max is a relatively poor way to explain differences between athletes while vVO2Max, or the velocity at which one attains maximum oxygen consumption, is a much better metric. Not only that, but an increase in vVO2Max correlates highly with time improvements in races of all distances. As my goal is to improve my speed in particular, it makes sense to work on my vVO2Max. Currently, this stands at 20 kph from a test I did in February - unfortunately this is only accurate to the nearest 1 kph and it is relatively unlikely I will improve enough to progress to 21 kph but time will tell.

6 week training plan for Aranjuez 10K
- 1 day off a week
- 2-3 quality sessions (Q1-3) a week alternating with 45-60 recovery runs
- Q1 = vVO2Max, Q2 = intervals, Q3 = race pace
- 1-2 sessions of plyometrics
- pace, number of repetitions and rest periods subject to adjustment

Week #1
Q1: > 20 x (30" @ 3:00 m:s / km, 30" @ 6:00)
Q2: 6 x (400m-200m) + 400m, 400m @ 3:10 w/ 1' jog, 200 m @ < 3:00 w/ 30" jog
Q3: 2 x 3 x 1,600m @ 3:25 w/ 1' rest

Week #2
Q1: > 20 x (30" @ 3:00 m:s / km, 30" @ 6:00)
Q2: 6 x (400m-200m) + 400m, 400m @ 3:10 w/ 1' jog, 200m @ < 3:00 w/ 30" jog
Q3: 6 x 1,600m @ 3:25 w/ 1' rest

Week #3
Q1: > 10 x (60" @ 3:00 m:s / km, 60" @ 6:00)
Q2: 3 x (800-400-200-1,000) @ 3:40, jog 2', 3:25, jog 1', 3:10, jog 30", 3:40, jog 4'
Q3: 1K, jog 2', 3K, jog 5', 2K, jog 4-5', 3K, jog 5', 1K @ 3:30-3:35

Week #4
Q1: > 10 x (60" @ 3:00 m:s / km, 60" @ 6:00)
Q2: 3 x (800-400-200-1,000) @ 3:40, jog 2', 3:25, jog 1', 3:10, jog 30", 3:40, jog 4'
Q3: 1K, jog 1', 3K, jog 3', 2K, jog 2', 3K, jog 3', 1K @ 3:30

Week #5
Q1: 5 x 1,000 @ 3:00 w/ 3' rest
Q2: 3 x (200-600-1,000) @ < 3:00, 3:10-3:25, 3:40-3:30, w/ 3-4' rest between sets
Q3: 10K @ 3:40, 3% incline

Week #6
Q1: 1K, jog 1', 3K, jog 2', 2K, jog 1', 3K, jog 2', 1K @ 3:30
Q2: 10K (2-5' @ 3:35, 1-3' @ easy)

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