Maximising Your Running Potential: A Year in Review

Insights and Strategies for Long-Term Running Improvement

With Coach Kelvin, Online Running Coach for We Run and the We Run Virtual Running Club, and 1:1 Running Coach for Leeds and surrounding areas

Hi folks, it’s Coach Kelvin here. This video is the second in a short series about monitoring and tracking progress in your training. In my first video on this topic, I looked at the last 12 months of my training and planning for the next 12 months ahead. Reviewing these 12 months is where I get the biggest bang for my buck, especially by identifying dips in volume between race-specific and set up phases that can be filled in. It’s not quite as simple as this, but my aim this year is to run more miles than last year while maintaining quality. As long as I include the right rest and recovery, this should manifest as improved fitness, allowing me to run faster or further, or hopefully, both!

Monitoring and Adapting Training Strategies

I will track my fitness as I progress through the year; keeping an eye on the time it’s taking me to run certain sections of trail or road or races, to make sure that what I’m doing is having a positive effect. For me, monitoring progress is crucial, especially since I don’t race often. I might do a couple of shorter races this year, but my main race is in early September. I don’t want to discover on race day whether my training is effective, so I periodically conduct test sessions throughout the season to gauge my fitness.

Elite runners train in a very methodical way, making it easier to monitor progress. They might follow similar training blocks, allowing them to compare their performance in a similar state of fatigue each time. When they’re not training, their recovery and sleep often looks quite similar too. In contrast, non-elite runners have all kinds of external factors that can affect their training sessions, which can make it harder to isolate the effects of their training.

Importance of Structured Training and Testing

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t test; structured training and regular testing are crucial. Runners I coach are familiar with this concept, where I sometimes replicate sessions from a month ago or create very similar ones that fit into their training program. This enables us to monitoring progress from one training block to the next.

It’s wise to include these in your training. I quite often see runners whose training is quite ad hoc – they’re adding bits of intensity, but not in a methodical way. This will drive a certain amount of fitness, but it won’t give that runner the best bang for their buck in terms of the time that they have to train, compared with something that’s more methodical and more measurable.

For measuring these sessions, it’s essential to perform them in a similar stage of your training cycle. For instance, doing a session on the weekend of a build week one, after a deload and an easy week. This consistency helps in comparing performances.

Running to Perceived Effort and Tracking Progress

I encourage runners to run to perceived effort, or feel. For example, I do a seven-mile out and back run up a hill, running it to perceived effort without relying on heart rate data, which can be influenced by external factors like temperature. In my own training I have four a five set runs that I always do to certain perceived effort, so that each time I do them I’m pretty much doing the same training session. I can then track my pace on these sessions over time, using tools like Strava, to monitor my long-term progress. It’s important not to base assessments on a single session but to look at progress over months or even years.

I typically include a comment or note on these test runs too, detailing how I felt, how my legs felt, whether it felt like a higher or lower intensity and so on. This helps me make a more nuanced comparison between previous and future attempts on that same training session.

Adapting to Plateaus and Training Phases

When fitness appears to be increasing and then plateaus, it might be time to step back and consider moving to the next phase of your training, such as transitioning from a VO2 max phase to a threshold phase.

So, there’s a lot to consider in tracking and improving your running training. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. And for now, happy running!

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