Runner’s Palette


Runner’s Palette – the ingredients of a robust and exciting training plan

by Patrick Reed

A couple of posts ago, we explored the inevitable distance running distraction known as running “stale.” In such a depressed phase of the training cycle, the daily run begins to feel sluggish and hopeless, the miles drone on like the painstaking 23rd mile strides of the marathon. And when you are “stuck in stale” there also looms the hopelessness of no meaningful finish line just a few miles down the road. Such a state truly invites the habitual runner to rethink her priorities and perhaps to start to give an assenting ear to the naysayers who have been wondering all along about the distance runner’s evident folly.

And so it was intriguing to watch as you each responded to the poll embedded in the same post. Here are the results so far: over 30% of the Run5kaday readership advocated adding moderate speedwork to the blah training schedule when the doldrums well up; another 26% wanted rest for the weary harrier; and 22% encouraged the stale runner to sign up for this weekend’s 5k race — an age-old remedy to jumpstart the defeated practitioner. The remainder of the group checked “other” as their antidote — whatever that might mean…

I found the second group, who wanted sleep and rest for the weary, to be the most enlightening and challenging of the responses. As a streak runner who does not take days off, I do not have such an “official” tool in my arsenal. I can, though, be creative – easily creating even 36-hour breaks between runs into my training without “taking a day off” (think run at 8 a.m. one morning and 8 p.m. the next evening…) Nevertheless, I am a little defensive when the prescription to my ills leans towards adding rest days. I have always been convinced that I can get needed rest by running slower — and running shorter distances. Of this, I remain convinced. Perhaps because I have no other outs in this category. 

Speaking from experience, though, it looks that a well-rounded regimen, replete with hard work and total rest, long steady distance runs and revving fartleks, cross-training days of ultimate frisbee, cycling and hiking and the occasional ‘back to high school glory days 10X400 meter track workouts’ are the ingredients which together meld to make for a stimulating training plan. In short, a diverse palette – like that of the artists’ – which neglects no fringe or eccentric color but which also relies weightily on the super-solid foundation of the primaries — such a palette is the key to healthy, successful and exciting distance running. Let’s quickly explore that palette.

The primaries – from which all else emanates – are aerobic threshold training, fartlek work and form work. According to guru’s in the know such as Dr. Phil Maffetone, the great bulk of the training work should be accomplished in this easy intensity heart-developing phase. Just as Dr. Phil upends the silly food pyramid of yesteryear and replaces it with 1/2 the plate loaded with fruits and veggies, and 1/4  each to proteins and carbs, so the healthy running regimen should be leaning very heavy on LSD, with lesser, but significant emphasis given to speedplay (the English equivalent of “fartlek”) and cross-training, strength work (push-ups, sit-ups and core work) and sharpening intervals on the track. But the creativity of the daily running mix need not stop with these key components. We must, too, add here and there a dash of barefoot striders, low-weight strength work, a-b-c running form drills from our track days and even the occasional game of pick-up soccer or basketball. All of these dollops of “color” contribute to the grand final masterpiece which is the well-rounded training plan. Keep your palette refreshed with all of nature’s hues and your running will keep from that creep towards staleness.

Keep coloring [outside of the lines:-]

~Coach Patrick

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