Specificity of training in running

Last week I did two workouts that reminded me yet again of the #1 rule of training: specificity. You become good at exactly what you practice.

The first workout was my longest bike ride in a while. During the winter, I’ve done only occasional rides on my mountain bike and few of them have taken me over an hour. Last week, eagerly setting out on a sunny morning, I decided to ride the whole PoCo trail loop (about 25 km) plus the additional distance getting there and back from my apartment. This is a route that I do regularly when the weather is good. It includes some moderate rolling hills on the road sections and a little up-and-down on the Coquitlam River section, but most of the PoCo trail is flat. It’s a pretty easy ride.


Taking a break on the PoCo trail under the Pitt River bridge of the Lougheed Highway.

Keeping up a steady but non-aggressive pace, I rode for almost an hour before taking a short break to remove an extra jacket and drink some water. After this break, trying to ride at a decent speed along the gravel dike section, I noticed my legs were already starting to tire! My fatigue increased rapidly and I knew that the last 10k of my ride was going to be a survival test. My quads just don’t seem to be able to store enough glycogen for a ride of any length. When they weaken on the bike, it’s a dramatic failure.

Boat homes on the Pitt River.

Boat homes on the Pitt River.

Unfortunately, because of the direction I had chosen, I was doing the hilly Coquitlam River section near the end of my ride. I could only marvel at how useless my quads had become. The uphills were very short but steep, and even in my lowest gears I had to stand up to move my pedals!

I enjoyed my ride, but after an hour and 45 minutes of cycling, I was glad to make it back to my apartment. I thought about the intense workouts I do regularly: the all-out Arc trainer sessions, the hard stationary bike sessions, and my occasional trail runs and sprints on the soccer field. It seemed they hadn’t helped me on my ride this day. Why not? It’s simple: most of my intense workouts are only 20 minutes long. They had allowed me to run a respectable 5K (20:44) at the Saint Paddy’s Day 5K two weeks earlier, in spite of almost no running training. However, these workouts didn’t give me the specific muscle endurance training I needed to cycle at a moderate intensity for almost two hours.

Another workout I did last week reminded me of the effectiveness of speedwork in running performance. With my arthritic knee, I can run very little. During the past three months my total “distance running” has been a 4–5K run once every week or two. Most weeks I do another running workout at the Port Moody artificial turf soccer field. I love this surface. Not only is it gentle on my knee and perfectly smooth, but it makes me feel bouncy and light. My typical workout at the soccer field takes only 12 to 15 minutes. I jog two loops of the field and then start throwing in a sprint on one or both lengths of the field on every loop. These sprints are very short so I can concentrate on running on my toes and getting a quick turnover. I’m unfit enough that this little workout makes me breathe hard.

I’ve discovered that this soccer field mini-workout makes my rare 5K runs significantly easier. The fastest pace my bad knee can handle feels relaxed. My stride is good and I feel as though I’m just floating along. Last Friday I was able to do my first full 5K since the Saint Paddy’s race. It was an ecstatic run because it was a sunny morning in Mundy Park, my knee didn’t feel too bad, and I was able to push hard on the gradual uphill of the final kilometer!

So my reminders are simple:

If you want to race fast, train fast.

If you want to race long, train long.

If you want to race long and fast, train both long and fast!

About nancytinarirunswrites

I used to be known as a competitive runner, but now I have a new life as a professional writer and editor. I'm even more obsessive about reading, writing, and editing than I was about running. Running has had a huge influence on my life, though, and runner's high does fuel creativity. Maybe that's why this blog evolved into being 95% about running, but through blogging I'm also learning about writing and online communication. I'm fascinated by how the Internet has changed work, learning, and relationships. I love to connect in new and random ways!
This entry was posted in Cycling, Personal stories, Running, Training Tips and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Specificity of training in running

  1. Pingback: Summer fun Part 2–Teenaged summer fun and the birth of an athlete | NancyRuns&Writes

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