The following is adapted from the book, “Run Faster From the 5k to the Marathon : How to be your own best coach”. Authored by Brad Hudson.
After a bad race or two, or a spell of sub-par training, it’s common to think, “I don’t feel fit.” Unfortunately, it’s also common to resolve to ramp up your training in all areas to fix the problem. That approach, however, neglects the fact that “I don’t feel fit” isn’t a specific enough diagnosis to determine the right training adjustments. What you need to know is what aspect of your running fitness is falling short. Once you know that, then you’ll know far more precisely how to alter your training to get back on the road to peak performance.
Your fitness can fail to measure up to the expectations you had when you designed your training plan in essentially three ways. Your aerobic fitness, your neuromuscular fitness or your specific endurance could lag too far behind the other two components of your running fitness. The following table provides a concise summary of signs that your fitness is possibly off track in one of these three ways. See Fitness Factors Defined for a better understanding of what I mean by aerobic fitness, neuromuscular fitness and specific endurance.
Signs that your AEROBIC FITNESS is lagging
Signs that your NEUROMUSCULAR FITNESS is lagging
Signs that your SPECIFIC ENDURANCE is lagging
Experiencing one of the signs identified in this table doesn’t automatically indicate that your training is flawed and should be adjusted. You can’t expect to perform well in every workout, nor can you expect your neuromuscular fitness, aerobic fitness and specific endurance to always be on the same level throughout the training process.
For example, if you are naturally a speed runner, and your muscular system is stronger than your aerobic system, it will be normal for you to feel that your lungs rather than your legs are limiting your performance in threshold workouts. With enough running background, you should have an idea of your natural strengths and weaknesses, and have designed a training program that accounts for them.
My purpose in encouraging you to watch out for signs of possible flaws in your fitness development isn’t to have you hit the proverbial panic button and overhaul your training every time you observe such a sign, like a bad investor who watches the stock market and moves his money around too often instead of taking the long view. When monitoring your fitness development, you need to keep a sense of perspective that helps you brush off certain signs as nothing to worry about and react only to those signs that demand a response. Understanding the final destination of your training and keeping it always in mind will enable you to maintain the perspective needed to accurately judge whether your fitness is truly off track to the degree that requires a multi-workout adjustment.
This process is really a matter of developing and acting on hunches. It’s impossible to formulate a strict set of rules to apply in the process of considering possible adjustments to planned workouts. You have to go by a sense of feel or intuition that’s informed by your knowledge of yourself.
If you decide you’re being held back by one of the aspects of running fitness, don’t freak out, and don’t majorly overhaul your training. The adjustments you’ll make in response to this type of diagnosis aren’t drastic.
The guiding principle for multi-workout adjustments is simple:
The following table gives suggestions for how to alter your training for a few weeks. After doing this stint of adjusted workouts, reassess your fitness balance and then decide whether to continue with this altered balance of training types or revert to your normal training plan.
If your AEROBIC FITNESS is lagging, make these adjustments for 2 to 3 weeks:
If your NEUROMUSCULAR FITNESS is lagging, make these adjustments for 2 to 3 weeks:
If your SPECIFIC ENDURANCE is lagging, make these adjustments for 2 to 3 weeks:
FITNESS FACTORS DEFINED
AEROBIC FITNESS: Basic endurance that allows you to feel comfortable for a long time while running at easy or moderate intensities.
NEUROMUSCULAR FITNESS: Effective communication between your brain and your muscles that allows for good stride power, running economy and fatigue resistance.
SPECIFIC ENDURANCE: The ability to resist fatigue at your goal race pace long enough to reach the finish line without having to slow.