Six weeks to go, and we are now at the business end of the programme. I hope that you’ve built successfully to this point, and that you’re feeling as though those kilometers have laid down a platform that will allow you to kick on towards peak volume in the next three to four weeks.
That’s what the next four weeks is about – we will build the volume, and we will optimize the intensity. That means peak volume, and it means peak training demand. Whatever happens for you on April 20th, no matter which distance you’re running, it will be significantly affected by how you cope with the next three weeks.
And the key to that, paradoxically, is not how well you train during that 45 min hilly run session, or that 2 hour long run, or those middle-length interval sessions where you’ll run at 10km pace. Of course, those things matter. But the real key is how well you recover between the sessions. Recovery unlocks adaptation, so it’s really important that you focus on what you’re doing when you’re not running, because it has huge implications for when you are.
You’ll finish those weekend long runs, and the midweek hill or interval sessions in a state of fatigue, depleted. That is inevitable. How well you recover determines what the next session can achieve, and the next, and the next. So let’s think briefly about how you can maximize recovery.
First, and most important, manage your life stress. Imagine yourself as a glass of water. The training session pours water into that glass. It’s half full, three quarters full, after those hard sessions. Then life pours more water in, and next thing, it’s at capacity, spilling over. That’s the situation you have to avoid. Now, I realize it’s not always possible – you have work, you have families, other stresses and they aren’t always so considerate as to allow you to relax and recovery from running!
But where possible, you need to control those stresses around your training. And where you can’t, manage your training smartly around them. For example, don’t wedge that hard long run or interval session in between family commitments and a major work deadline. Don’t push through until 1am on work and then try to wake up at 5am for a run. Rather move the training (the controllable) to a day or time where you feel you’ll be able to prioritize recovery.
After hard sessions, in particular, you should avoid spending time on your feet, get early nights, and avoid filling your time with energy draining activities. This applies for a day or two after those hard sessions too.
Second, and crucially, sleep. Try to get into a routine, with as early a bedtime as possible for the next four weeks. Don’t spend the last 30 min of your night on your smartphone, because we now know that this affects your quality of sleep.
Third, diet. Adrian spoke to you in last week’s video about the importance of putting fuel back into your body after training. In the next three or four weeks, your training load will demand a great deal of energy. You have to put that back, or you’ll be running on empty, and over four weeks, that will catch up with you. You might hold it at bay for a week or two, maybe even a month, but at some stage, you’ll crash, and find yourself unable to handle the load. So make sure you eat well enough, and just enough, in terms of volume.
Fourth, rest means rest. Even in these peak weeks, you’re resting two, sometimes three times a week, depending on your programme. Those rest days are key, and you’ll be better of really resting properly. You may feel tempted to go to the gym, to swim, to do an easy run. Don’t give in. No matter how easy you run, or gym, it’s still a stress, and the point of the rest day is maximum recovery. So don’t “spend from your budget” when you should be saving!
And finally, there are a range of small things you can do, including regular massage, icing after training, and compression socks. If you believe that these work for you, then by all means, continue. I won’t offer an opinion either way – evidence is split, but some people feel great benefits, and so if you can afford them, either time or money-wise, then go for it.
But the main thing, 90% of the battle, is to pick your moments. And when it matters (the run), you need to be fresh and ready to fire.