Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hi Mystery Coach,

We hear very little in this blog about cross training. I personally had a breakthrough marathon in which I dropped my PR from 2:59 to 2:38, and although I improved my training in all areas, I felt that weight training was the biggest key to my improvement. My running form improved a lot as I strengthened my core, I had much more drive in my upper body, and I was able to avoid injuries and train consistently for the 8 months leading up to the marathon. Mike obviously handles high mileage, hills, and speed with what he is doing now. Is there a need for greater cross training, and is there anything he can do to make a 5 minute jump in marathon performance or is he already at the level where he will have to work his butt off for another 2-3 minute gain?



Doug, I'm sure I could get Mike to run an extra 10 miles the day of his long run easier than getting him to do a cross training activity (especially if it is Pilates). Cross training may or may not benefit runner depending on the individual. In your experience you mentioned that you improved in all areas of training and was consistent in your training so maybe it wasn't just the weight training that lead to your improvement. Arthur use to compare training to making a cake where you have to have all the ingredients. Long running, hill running and time trials are still the flour, eggs and yeast of the cake. As long as you keep the weight training (cross training) in balance with the main ingredients instead of substituting it for a main ingredient you'll find success.

Hi Coach,

You regularly set Mike a session such as 10x1000 m , this always seems to end in Mike only making it through to no 7 before his legs give out ! To my mind this leads to negative thoughts in Mikes head because he failed to complete the session. Arthur Lydiard recommends 5 K of total effort during a repetition or interval session, maybe if mike stuck to this approach ie 5 x 1000 he could not only run faster but come out of the session feeling much more positive and more confident about his running. Please give your reasons for setting such a tough session for Mike and why you don't stick to Mr Lydiard's recommendations during interval sessions.


Richard, I don't think I ever give Mike 10X1000 as a workout, usually it says "Volume Speed" or "1000s" or as a suggestion "5-10 X 1000" (I may have even suggested "1-10 X 1000" once). The only criteria that is strived for is 15-40 minutes of harder running (some where between Marathon pace and 5K pace) and the athlete gets to stop when they have had enough. As Rich Englehart pointed out "Arthur expected his athletes to be honest with themselves about what they were feeling and able to do" Some athletes run 3-4 X 1000M at about 10 mile race pace and others run 8-10 X 1000 at 4 mile race pace and yet they "race" 2 miles on the track within 5 seconds of each other. I'd be interested to see in the comments section all the different variations of speed that runners use when they feel they are in top shape, you'll see that it is not as cut and dry as 5X1000 @ 5K pace.

Hello Mystery Coach,

I'm not sure if you're still doing the questions feature at Mike's blog, but if you do, I have got one.
Mike has stated more than once that he keeps slowing down over the last few miles of his marathons. It used to be the last 6 miles, and while the situation has improved, it's still the one issue that he thinks stops him from posting a better time.

I have heard that some coaches recommend over-distance training runs to solve that problem. I even seem to remember that Arthur Lydiard himself prescribed those at times, but I may be mistaken.

What do you think about that?

Thanks in advance Thomas

Thomas, We have tried a few variations on training to see where the biggest benefit is for Mike. This last build with the much higher mileage (110-120MPW) seemed to help more than just the longer long run. A 30 mile long run might help Mike but 30 miles takes 3:30 plus to run (not including additional recovery time) so scheduling and weather are issues. Runners like Amby Burfoot and Kenny Moore use to go out for 35 plus milers (although their mileage was around 90-100MPW) and Frank Shorter rarely ran longer than 20 milers (his mileage 120 to 160 plus(at times) so getting the right mix is unique to the individual.


Mike said...

Thought I would add a bit here. Doug, I'd love to do more core work, but every time I lay down to do crunches two kids jump on my belly. Seriously, it is on the radar for this year, as I can't say it wouldn't help as I've never focused on it. And coach is right, I exercise my veto power on the Pilates.

Richard, I actually remember both instances the coach mentions (the one time he suggested I get all the way to 10 as well as the "1-10" suggestion). As far as being positive, remembering Axiom Number 1 and 2 help (Workouts show what condition you are in, they don't make you into that condition, and that how you recover from a workout is a better indicator of your condition than the workout itself). This kind of long view gets me past most day to day worries after a slow session (I said most).

And Thomas. Geez, how far do you want me to run?? Seriously, I like the idea of overdistance runs as well as longer long runs, and I think lengthening them for this last build really helped me fight fatigue. Again though, I defer to the coach as far as the extra recovery time needed possibly eclipsing the possible gains.

Thanks to all for submitting questions to the coach, I learn a great deal from these Q&A posts.

Keep the questions coming to mysterycoach AT gmail DOT com

Ewen said...

Some interesting questions there. I'll echo Doug's views on core strength helping, but it'd be hard to put a PR-time value on it - of course, pilates can be used to develop core stregth ;)

I like Mystery Coach giving Mike the option of x number of repeats. If Mystery Coach were watching the session, he could tell Mike when to stop, or do more, by observing how Mike was handling the session.

I used to like 3 x 1000, or 5 x 1000, but faster - somewhere between 1500m and 3000m race pace (longish recoveries). But this was when I was in 'top shape' for 3k to half marathon races.

Mystery Coach said...

Ewen, I would guess that if watching the sessions instead of being 2000 miles away, the sessions might be slower and less reps (The though is you do "not" have to do maximum efforts in training) but part of pushing a hard workout is to put the athletes mind at ease (which should not be under estimated (I've found the more times an athlete has gone through a consistent program the more likely they become confident in the program and leave less in behind in training))

On a side note I also found that short sessions (ie 3 X 800 @ 2:20 with 1 minutes rest) indicated peak performances in that 3k-half marathon range and were best used during the final peaking phase (when the athlete had more rest and less volume ) just before the final taper.

RICK said...