Thursday, June 10, 2010

Alternating Hard and Easy Running ?

As a relatively new runner I am still in the phase where i feel I should go out as hard as i can for all runs, competing with my running partners and constantly pushing times......lately, however, Ive been questioning this, especially since Ive had an injury that keeps returning and have become concerned to keep the running sustainable and enjoyable in the long term.

The more I have read the more I am understanding that I need to alternate a bit more between hard and easy....

Running Times have a great article on this;

Whatever your pattern, over the course of a week you must balance your hard, high-intensity with easy, low-intensity mileage. Anaerobic effort requires aerobic recovery. If the three secrets to selling property are location, location and location, runners know that the secrets to running well are balance, balance and balance. The challenge lies in figuring out the ratio of that balance.

Runaddicts also put this on their list of tips for injury prevention
  • Do not over train
  • Do not try to do too much too soon
  • Get habit of proper warm-up exercises prior to running
  • Gradually increase speed and distance
  • Practice the principle of mixing hard and easy training on a daily and weekly basis
  • Only 10% of distance should be added on a weekly basis
  • Keep a proper diet required for your style of running
  • Set aside a minimum of 2 days of the week that you do not run at all
  • Make sure you give your body enough time to rest and to recuperate
  • Do stretching exercises regularly, especially the calf and hamstring muscles
  • Ensure a proper level of calcium and proteins in the body to keep healthy bones and muscles
Apparently this 'hard-easy system" was developed by University of Oregon Coaches Bill Bowerman and Bill Delinger. The physiological reason for this makes common sense:

'The physiological foundation for a "hard/easy" system seems sound. In physiology, the principle of overload tells us that we must provide training stress beyond what we are used to. This stress causes depletion of energy stores and microscopic damage to muscle, connective and other tissues which, as they heal, adapt by growing stronger. This not only takes place in the working muscles, but also in all the bodies parts associated with delivering energy to the muscles. Thus, over time, the muscles can do more work, and the ability to deliver energy to the muscles is enhanced to allow the work to be more intense and to continue for longer periods.

The trick is first, to provide enough but not too much stress, and second, to allow enough recovery to replenish energy stores, heal and adapt. For runners, this recovery period has been shown to be 48 hours or more. This has led many coaches and runners to adopt a hard day/easy day training regimen.'

What do they say are the benefits of the system ?

  • At the same overall weekly mileage, their long run is nearly doubled with the resulting endurance and confidence benefits that enable them to compete in longer events.
  • They get more rest and feel fresher all the time.
  • They have fewer injuries.
  • Their mental approach to their running changes so that they look forward to and relax on their easy days and they focus on the challenge and accomplishment of the hard days.
  • They are able to do more training without fatigue, injury or mental burnout.
  • Their race times improve.

The question is does this really matter when you only run every other day, or at least put 36 hours between runs ? I guess this depends on how your body reacts to training and vote will be to chill a little and allow myself one easy relaxed run out of four every week...

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