Friday, January 9, 2009

Training do’s and don’ts

Just for fun, not that we are any kind of expert runners (ha!), we decided to put in our two cents in the TIaRT forum on training do’s and don’ts (I know it’s Friday already!). Some of these thoughts are pretty empirical and based on practical experience over the years, but similar advice is given on the training website.


  • Do eat high quality nutrition—limit simple carbs, especially if you are trying to keep the weight off (in contrast to the previous conventional wisdom, you don’t need to replace all 400 to 500 g of glycogen stores everyday in an ordinary training day! We keep our intake to probably <100g, but the absolute amount is up to you and perhaps governed by the intensity of your training). Get plenty of vitamins and omega -3 fats and sufficient protein using fresh veggies and meats/fish/cheese/nuts, including vitamin supplements if necessary.
  • Do get sufficient rest–get enough Z’s, take a day off once in a while or just take a walk instead of feeling like you have to run everyday
  • Do alternate hard days with easier days and hard weeks with easier weeks
  • Do experiment with hill work, tempo training, track intervals, etc. to see how you’re doing under different conditions, and race once in a while just for the feedback and fun
  • Do try crosstraining and/or weight lifting to work on specific muscle and core muscle strengthening
  • Do make sure you throw in plenty of Goldilocks days (not too hard, not too easy, just the right amount of effort)
  • Do evaluate yourself critically and welcome feedback from others, then work on your deficiencies (don’t just gloat about your strengths)
  • Do pay attention to what your muscles and joints are telling you. Sore or tired muscles may need to be warmed up more slowly or rested. Extensive stretching before exercise may be losing favor as a routine practice, but if you have a muscle that is tight or tending to cramp, or other problem areas, do stretch it carefully before and after your run.
  • Do start slowly. We often find that we don’t “reach our stride” until about 45 minutes or more into a run. Even under race conditions, be careful not to push too hard too early. Do be patient and consistent
  • Do use a plan if you’re into it, but I’ve had success (some years ago anyway) just winging it and doing what it seemed needed doing (long runs some days, easy on others, track work to speed up a bit, crosstraining on the bike)


  • Don’t overtrain (back off to really easy once in a while–you’ll know when you need it when your legs are just beat or you start to resent your workouts)
  • Don’t push through pain all the time—sometimes it goes away if you’re patient, but sometimes it means you need to lay off the hard/long stuff for a while, maybe do some cross training for a week or two or more
  • Don’t get discouraged—as the Tao Te Ching says “sometimes things are easy and sometimes things are hard…”. You can be sure that what is hard today will someday be easier, and then again, what is easy today will be hard someday when you’re injured or sick.
  • Don’t worry about what other people think— sure you may look like a dork sometimes, we all do, but you can’t try to look great all the time if it means you’re running a pace far too fast to sustain just to impress others. It can mean the difference between a merely respectable time (ok maybe even a poor time) and not even finishing a race.
  • Don’t be afraid of a challenge. If you’re not really ready for the challenge, so what? You’ll know what your baseline novice level is and be able to do better next time. Every race, every challenge, will teach you something different about preparation, psychology and equipment that will come in handy later.

One final thought—from reading other contributions on this topic, it’s clear that there is a wide variety of approaches, from those wanting every training detail spelled out to those (like us) just feeling our way along. We haven’t even figured out what races we’re doing this year yet, so it’s hard to begin a training plan! Right now I’m toying with the idea of a road marathon (Napa Valley? Probably haven’t a prayer of a respectable time [i.e., close to finishing times from my distant past], but we may decide to run it anyway just for a baseline number), and we’re waiting to hear about the lottery for Miwok 100K (what the F--- was I thinking?), and of course there’s Diablo 50-miler and some other killer ultra trail events coming up… We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, we’re putting in some easier mileage and watching to see if the heart rate drops with mostly aerobic training as it supposed to do when you’re improving (it does seem to be happening, if slowly). We’re also putting in some tempo runs and track workouts to train for a faster pace that is sub lactate threshold (LT2, as best I can tell where that is—seems to be about 8:30 pace right now for me and maybe 7:30 pace for David) but this is a pace that neither of us can sustain indefinitely. Running on a track is very different from running on trails, especially hilly ones, so we will probably end up incorporating a lot more hills eventually (sure would have helped at Muir Beach!).


Julianne said...

Those are all very excellent training advices!! I like the one about the carb limiting. Although, I've fallen off the wagon considerably. Oh, I really hope you will sign up for the Napa Valley!! :-)

Good luck with the Miwok 100k!!

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Hi Julianne,

Check out the site. It's full of neat stuff about training and nutrition. We're trying to get back on the wagon too since we indulged a bit at xmas time, like most everyone else! The pounds have a way of accumulating then...