you would hope that after spending 18 hours in a classroom, you would learn something new. you would also hope that you didn’t learn too much- i mean, my brain can only hold so much! i was so nervous going into this class through the RRCA. when keith and georgia dropped my off at 7:30 am, i felt like it was my first day of 7th grade- i was intimidated and excited all rolled into one. i spent so much time thinking about whether or not i could hold my own in class, i neglected to think about whether or not my past several years of coaching would be completely shot down.
well fortunately for me (and you!), they weren’t. while i learned a lot and some new theories on running, i also learned that what i have been doing is perfectly acceptable. it’s interesting how much a running plan is really just based on someone’s theory of running. a lot of people’s theories, however, are based on scientific research. i go cross-eyed at the first mention of ATP, pyruvate, glycogen, and lactate but i know how important it is for me, as a coach, to understand how these benefit or hinder the abilities of my runners.
we were reminded, as we went through class, that this is simply the theory of RRCA. they’re not there to say jeff galloway, greg mcmillin, or any other well known coach is wrong. they just believe strongly in their theory behind their training plans. i must say, i drank the kool-aid! we went over the benefits of building a true base before moving on to any specialized training. i have always believed in this is as well, but after class, realized that i have to re-define what “base” means to me. i have always believed that your base is what you’re building while either starting to run or during running- so, if you run 10 miles a week, that is your base. in the eyes of the RRCA, for the purposes of training for a race, your “base” is your highest amount of weekly mileage that you hope to get to in that training season. this really changes things in the eyes of training plans. the RRCA really believes that you should not introduce any race-specific training (speed, tempo, hills) until you are through building your base. i must admit, i’m a little taken aback at the idea of only spending a few weeks on this during a training season but i’m anxious to try it.
it makes sense when you really think about it. if you’re in your base building weeks, you need to be focusing on building your base. why? because this is what builds your endurance. if you’re going out to run a half marathon or marathon, what is more important in the long run- endurance or speed? endurance, of course. speed will come with endurance and strength but speed will not come at all if you don’t have endurance and strength. so, your hard runs, during ALL of your base building weeks, is your long run. during base building weeks, you will also get to your highest single run mileage which means all of your focus for these weeks is on the long run. i know what you’re thinking- “how do you expect me to get to my longest run in my base building weeks (6 or so weeks) rather than taking the full training time (12 or so weeks)?”- i expect you to get there because you’re going to be running slow enough for the extra distance to not damage your muscles and connective tissues. (MORE ON SLOW RUNS IN THE NEXT BLOG!)
once you have your base you will then spend a few weeks on race-specific pacing. is this enough time? again, yes, if done right, it should be. you are getting stronger because you will spend more weeks at your base mileage than ever before. therefore, your body will have truly adapted to the feeling of a long run by the time you go out and race. with this newfound strength, you should feel more powerful than before and, in turn, run a better race.
the key is to truly honor the purpose of the workout. if you’re in your base building weeks, honor that and respect that the purpose is to build endurance. allow your body to adapt before moving out of this phase and into the next. rather than looking at your training as a 12 week plan, look at it as a daily workout. what is the purpose of today’s workout? is it to make you strong? is it to make you fast? every workout has a purpose. your coach is here to help you understand the purpose and your head is here to make you honor that purpose.