Train so you can train tomorrow

I listened to a very interesting series of podcasts over the weekend. I recommend Endurance Planet to anyone who “gets” endurance sports – if you’re reading this then that means you! You can get their podcasts via iTunes or at They have some great tips and expert opinions and some very well done interviews with great endurance athletes, most recently Dave Scott of Ironman fame; it was from him that I picked up the tip below.

There were a couple of things that really stuck with me, but the one I though worth repeating – mainly because it is so applicable to me right now – is “train so you can train tomorrow”. So often I put it all out there on a training run or an interval session, for various reasons, only to find my performance impacted the next day or week. Sometimes it’s because I want to test myself against my previous times or my training partners, and others because it just feels so good to really burn! For me, this kind of approach to training is simply not sustainable.

It’s no secret that “consistency is key”; we all know that two hard training weeks followed by one of forced rest while you recover from a niggle or more serious injury is not nearly as beneficial as 3 weeks of consistent, albeit maybe lower mileage or intensity, weeks. All of us know some freak who is able to run 8 marathons in 10 weeks while training for Comrades, and we all fall into the trap of trying to train at that level when the thinking, rational part of the brain knows the risk is not worth the reward. I’ve always fallen into that category – believing that I would be able to run through the strain and that I was the statistical anomaly in being able to compete and train without a break.

The reason for my not wanting to accept what I knew was that I didn’t have a concrete and positive thought to place alongside a session where I didn’t go all out. “Train so you can train tomorrow” is that positive thought – when I stepped off the treadmill after only 6 kays this morning, I did it so that I could run hard tomorrow morning and I felt good, not guilty, about it. And tomorrow morning when I only beat Iano by 3 seconds and not the normal 10, it’s because I know that will enable me to train tomorrow (okay, that last part was completely fictional and any reference to the Iano that we know is unintended and purely coincidental).

So my mantra this year is going to be about training so I can train again tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow after that!


Tempo Runs – why we do them

It was great to see the big group running this morning. Clearly there are some good New Year’s resolutions coming into play 🙂

Today’s session as per Terry’s Comrades Program was a 20 minute moderate tempo run. I got to wondering if we all really understand why we would do this type of session, so I asked a few runners on the warm-down, if they understood. They didn’t so, I thought I should explain:

What is a Tempo Run? A Tempo Run is used to build your anaerobic threshold, which is the point where you go anaerobic. To explain what this means to us, think of a long distance runner (us) vs. a sprinter (Bolt). A sprinter would run anaerobically for ‘seconds’ where a long distance runner would want to run aerobically for ‘hours’. When we are running for hours, we want to be as efficient as we can (a bit like a car running economically at 5 litres per 100km vs. a bakkie running at 20 litres per 100km – we know which will get further on a 50 litre tank – the car!). So, to get more efficient, we want to build our anaerobic threshold and that is where the tempo run comes in.

So, how do we know how fast to run? That’s gonna be different for each runner, but I personally like to work it out based on feeling. We will do either a hard tempo or a moderate tempo. A hard tempo is when you feel you are running hard, but not full out (say at about 90%)! A moderate tempo is when you feel you are running moderately hard (say 85%). Another way of working how hard you should be running is by the talk test – during a tempo run, it should be possible to say a few words (like “Lets up the pace”), but you should not be able to have a conversation – that should be kept for the Wednesday easy run and the Sunday long runs 🙂

If you really want to work out a pace that is best for you, there are a number of calculators, such as the McMillan Running Calculator or Matt Fitzgerald has developed a Pace Zone Index (PZI) that helps you define and set different training zones and paces that you should be running in these zones. I won’t get into all of them now, but the tempo run should be run in the Pace Zone 6 (Threshold) zone to be effective as a workout. Running tempo runs faster in Zone 7 (Gray Zone 3) is ineffective and running slower in Zone 5 (Gray Zone 2). You really want to keep out of the Gray Zones as much as possible. Otherwise you are effectively wasting a running session.

What will tempo runs do for my racing? Essentially, you will be running more efficiently if you do your tempo runs at the right pace and that means that you will be able to run further at a higher pace – Faster Races!

I hope this clarifies the tempo run.

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham (Running speaker and writer)