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Training for a running event is kind of like building a house

Updated: Sep 15, 2020





Okay, I've never actually built my own house. I'd love to, it feels like it would be such a satisfying thing to be able to do, but as I seem to be able to make a mess of just trying to hang a picture on a wall.


But, if I ever were to build my own home, I'm pretty sure I know enough to think that I would start from the ground up, and not the other way round.


That sort of logic doesn't always seem to follow in every other aspect of life though does it? And so often I see this sensible progression approach going out the window when people tackle their training.


When we think about planning our training for a running event, let's say a very first marathon, there is a lot to learn from our house-builder friends.


1. Laying the foundations


I've spoken recently in another blog about starting with the fundamentals. And ensuring our bodies are fit and ready for the training it's about to undertake is much like laying the foundations for that house. Making sure we're injury free, got the time and space to train, have drawn up a plan for what the end result should look like and checked we have the right tools (i.e. flexibility, balance, coordination, strength and fitness) are all key here.


2. Building some walls around us


Okay, now we've done the groundwork we need to set our perimeter. For me this often means some speed work. Even if our aim isn't necessarily to break records or gain a PB, the top-end speed that we lay down at the beginning of our training will set the limits for our training. After all, once you've established the walls of your house, you only have the option to go up, not out... unless you built an extension of course, but let's not stretch the metaphor too far.


3. Putting a roof on top


After the speed work, comes running economy - i.e. making the most of what we've got. For endurance runners the best results come by training our bodies to make the most of our limits. Most elite marathon runners don't necessarily have the highest VO2max (a measure of your bodies upper aerobic capacity), instead they are able to run at a higher percentage of their maximum and for longer than most others.


4. Turning on the lights


Now your new home you've built needs to function just the way you need it to. So the room layout, plumbing and electrics all have to be just-so. And as we get close to our race, we need to think about that target pace we're going to need to hit to get the time we desire across the finish line. This could mean longer runs with race-pace intervals to train our bodies for the speed-endurance we need for race day.


5. The finishing touches


Whilst I'm sure there are some of us out there that like to pick out the cushion covers before ground's even been broken on our new home, most of us I'd hope would wait. And only as we get to the end of our training do we start to get specific and add those finishing touches. So this is where we start thinking about race prep; training on the course, deciding what kit we're going to wear, choosing the right nutrition and hydration. Not only do we want to simulate race conditions in training, but we want to remove as may unknown variables as possible. The longer and harder the event we're training for, the more important this becomes!


So taking the time to plan properly, focusing on one thing at a time and doing things in the right order should lead to a happy house of running for not just your next event, but for years to come.


If you'd like some help planning or building for your next running event get in touch and see how we can support you. Just don't ask me to help with any DIY!


Coach Ian

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