Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

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kpt4321

Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by kpt4321 » Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:02 pm

Hi all!  After a (mostly) successful 2010 racing season, I am currently trying to plan out my general path forward into 2011, and I was hoping for some help!  I did something like this last year, and I got a lot of great feedback, so I am hoping to make some changes from the things I have learned and have you guys assist me to that end.

Basic info about me and my goals:  25 years old, male, 17:56 5k, 63:xx 10-mile, 1:25 1/2 marathon.  I will be racing distances from 5k to 13.1M in the spring/summer next year.  I'd like to go 17:45 or faster for 5k, and 1:22 or faster for the half.

My question is basically, what are the key things that I need do be doing regularly?  I don't care about staying sharp, but I do want to continue to improve my base and my strength, so that I can get fast when racing season comes around.  I currently do one long run per week (about 90 minutes, easy pace), one session of longer intervals (800m-1600m repeats, 8k-15k pace), and sometimes a moderate run of 3-7 miles around marathon pace.  Everything else is easy.

Key Questions:

-Should I keep doing fast-ish intervals, or should I drop them out and just do steady state work?
-How much tempo running should I aim for, weekly?  I think not doing enough of this is my biggest weakness
-Should/can I implement tempo running as part of my long run (for example, 3mi easy, 6mi moderate/MP/TT, 3mi easy), or do I need to keep this as a separate workout (thus making 3 key days per week)?

Thanks!

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Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by ap4305 » Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:33 pm

Should I keep doing fast-ish intervals, or should I drop them out and just do steady state work?

You can and should do faster intervals, but modify the length of the workbouts and the recoveries to suit your present needs.  Instead of doing cycles of four minutes CV with 60-90 sec rest (or the track-based distance equivalent), you might do two minutes CV instead.  Likewise, a set of in-season 5k paced reps (i.e. 5 x 800m at 5k pace) might become a fartlek with cycles of one minute hard/one minute easy.  In sum, you can and should maintain speed in the offseason, but you can do so without too much strain by shortening workbouts and lengthening recoveries. 

-How much tempo running should I aim for, weekly?  I think not doing enough of this is my biggest weakness

No set number, though I don't know that you need to run 7 miles at tempo regularly (unless you proprly adjust and possibly run slower than Tinman tempo to suit the needs of the offseason).  For maintenance, even two miles of tempo before a set of strides can be effective. 

-Should/can I implement tempo running as part of my long run (for example, 3mi easy, 6mi moderate/MP/TT, 3mi easy), or do I need to keep this as a separate workout (thus making 3 key days per week)?

You can add some tempo into the long runs, but if you aren't training for a marathon in the first half of the season it is by no means essential.  If you do combine tempo with the long run, I'd certainly limit the intensity of the other workout(s).  I'd actually start including tempo by adding it to the end, unless the primary objective of the run is the tempo aspect and not the long run aspect.  Remember though, you can do both easy long runs and quality long runs.  Adding strides/fartlek into the long run is also effective to ensure you are recruiting different muscles throughout the runs.       

kpt4321

Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by kpt4321 » Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:16 pm

AP, thanks a lot as usual.

It sounds like a good plan for me is to run with the following general plan for "quality" during the week:

-1 Workout with 400-1600m repeats, 5k-20k pace.  Longer rests and smaller total than in-season is appropriate.

-1 "workout" or session of moderate pace / tempo running.  Again, less total volume, perhaps 2 miles of faster work (HMP) or 3-5 miles of more moderate work (TT/MP).

-1 medium-long "long run" (for me, medium-long is around 90 minutes, or 10-12 miles) at a relatively easy pace.

Plus striders a few days per week.

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Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by ap4305 » Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:45 pm

[quote="kpt4321"]

-1 Workout with 400-1600m repeats, 5k-20k pace.  Longer rests and smaller total than in-season is appropriate.

[/quote]

One thought to refine things: For 10k-20k paced work (typically your longer reps), simply cutting the total volume of work is usually a sufficient modification.  If you normally did 5 x mile @20k with 90 seconds rest, you don't need to do 4 x 1200m at the same pace with 3 minute rest as your equivalent offseason workout.  Simply running 3 x mile with same or slightly longer rest (2 mins vs. 90 sec) would be appropriate.  However, for 3k-8k reps, you can more significantly modify both the length and the rest. 

mathwiz1

Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by mathwiz1 » Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:55 pm

I'm not attempting to hi-jack the thread, but I'm curious to know of ways that one can work on speed-endurance (or whatever the lingo - I'm talking about improving one's ability to hold paces in the 400m to 1-mile pace range).  As I've stated in another thread, I have run 200m in 26.xx and can usually run a 400m in under 60 (best is 57.x), but I struggle with any distance up to the 5k.  My aerobic engine is  strong from 5 miles out, though.  It's my personal belief that work in the 400m to 1-mile range would obviously improve times for those distances, but would also translate to better 3k - 5k times (my personal area of greatest struggle, and the distance range that I would like to better myself in since 5k's are ever-so popular these days).

As a reminder, I'm also working the moderate intensities using Tom's 3-day rotation, however, I think that it would be pretty easy to work two energy systems simutaneously with the right amount of caution.

I'm curious as to other's off-season speed-endurance enhancement thoughts.

road dog

Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by road dog » Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:29 pm

Kpt4321,
I consider the base period as prelude to the season.  Building mileage would be my goal, w/ a weekly CV workout (12k pace), and tempo run (marathon pace) to differentiate the pace.  Include strides, and a weekly long run.

Once you enter your season, I would modify the workouts to race pace, faster than race pace, and slower than race pace.  Ex: 3k pace, 5k pace, and 12k pace.

I recommend avoiding trying to do 2 aspects of training at once.  Ex: a balance between overall mileage, and intensity. 

-road dog

kpt4321

Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by kpt4321 » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:37 pm

AP & Road Dog, thanks for the insight!

Mathwiz, I too would love to hear the answers on that topic, so no problem for the slight off-topic.

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Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by Tinman » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:45 pm

Mathwiz1 -

In your case, I think that running 3k-5km paced reps would do you some good, since you have sufficient speed at the shorter distances and a good ability to race over 5 miles or longer. But, I caution you that using short recoveries with longer reps in the 3k-5km speed-range would not be fruitful for you. Try workouts like 4 x 600m at 3km speed (jog 400m recoveries in 3 minutes) + 4 x 200m at 1500m speed (jog 200m recoveries). Do that once per week, including several warm up and cool down miles. Throw in 2-3 miles of tempo running after the reps to further expand your high-end endurance. Retain a once per week CV workout (like 6x1km at CV/ jog 200) + striders) and a long run over hills.

Regards,

Tinman
Last edited by Tinman on Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by ap4305 » Fri Dec 03, 2010 1:08 am

[quote="mathwiz1"]
I think that it would be pretty easy to work two energy systems simutaneously with the right amount of caution.
[/quote]

[quote="Tinman"]
In your case, I think that running 3k-5km paced reps would do you some good, since you have sufficience speed at the shorter distances and a good ability to race over 5 miles or longer. But, I caution you that using short recoveries with longer reps in the 3k-5km speed-range would not be fruitful for you. Try workouts like 4 x 600m at 3km speed (jog 400m recoveries in 3 minutes) + 4 x 200m at 1500m speed (jog 200m recoveries). [/quote]

One of the keys underlying Tinman's suggestion is that it the extra metabolic cost is minimal.  You don't really need to expose yourself to extra "energy system" stress to perform better.  Instead, you're addressing the neuromuscular demands of the specific velocities in the 3k-5k race pace range.  We often end up overestimating the metabolic demands and underestimating the neuromuscular demands, which leads to us doing inappropriate training and becoming overcooked or peaking at the wrong times. 

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Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by Tinman » Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:50 am

The reason I suggest using long, active recoveries between 600m reps at 3km pace is to ensure that the focus is primarily on neuor-muscular coordination, as AP4305 eluded to.  On purpose, I suggested just 4 x 600m at 3km pace, which is just 2400m of work at 3km pace. That's enough volume-stimulus to improve the specific neuro-mechanical elements of performance, and the recoveries are sufficient to prevent overloading the metabolic capacity of your motor units. Thus, you won't be exhausted: you won't deplete adaptive reserves, as you build your "aerobic" base.

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mathwiz1

Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by mathwiz1 » Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:54 am

Tom and Ap,

Many thanks for your reply.  At this point I could simply take your answer, or I could ask my question.  I'm inquistive by nature, so here it goes!

Question:  I was under the impression that neuromuscular enhancement was essentially working one's muscles to move faster.  If I were to try to improve my neuromuscular conditioning prior to this thread, I would have thought that it meant doing 5 x 100m strides at 90% effort - smooth and relaxed.  I was thinking that strides were strides, and that distance was a non-variable (after, say, 100m or 150m, whichever - obviously a 15m strider isn't going to cut it).  If I increased the distance of the "strider" at 3km pace to 600m, I always thought that it then classified it into a "rep".  Here, it seems that you're proposing very long striders with full recovery, correct?  So my question is why does the distance of the strider make the difference?  It seems like I'd be working the Vo2 max energy system if I increase the reps out too far, but I will if you say so!  I'm probably just confused and looking for clarfication.

Many thanks!
Last edited by mathwiz1 on Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by ap4305 » Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:08 pm

[quote="mathwiz1"]
it seems that you're proposing very long striders with full recovery, correct?  So my question is why does the distance of the strider make the difference?  It seems like I'd be working the Vo2 max energy system if I increase the reps out too far, but I will if you say so! 
[/quote]

[quote="mathwiz1"]
So my question is why does the distance of the strider make the difference?  It seems like I'd be working the Vo2 max energy system if I increase the reps out too far
[/quote]

Good question.  This post got a bit long and hopefully Tinman will return here to fill in any physiology gaps that I leave.  ;)

You are correct in that you are still working the VO2max system, but the real key is how much is it being stressed, which is a function of the rest interval as much as the work interval.  The "danger" in training near VO2 max pace is not so much the stresses from the actual running; instead, if you cut the rests short, the ph levels (acidity) don't return to normal levels and you end up with a 20-30 minute session where your blood ph is highly acidic.  With full recoveries, the actual metabolic stress is manageable and you aren't spending a lot of time under stress (provided the reps aren't TOO long and you don't do too many of them).

Length of the strider/rep is important for a few reasons.  One, the longer rep provides for more powerful learning effect.  For example, when you begin on a weight training program, most of your initial gains come from muscular coordination rather than growth in muscle size and work capacity.  The body simply becomes better at the activity by learning how to "work thorugh the problem." 

Muscles learn how to contract and relax in the appropriate coordinated fashion.  When we cut the rests short and run at those fast paces, we can overload our primary motor units and start recruiting non-motor units to the job less efficiently.  In other words, when our main running muscles get overloaded, our body starts grasping for other sources of power to carry out the task that the brain is asking the body to do.  Through a combination of experience and research, coaches and scientists have learned where to strike the right balance of rep length and rest interval.  Yes, we can work the neuromusuclar aspect through strides alone, but that probably doesn't provide the adaptation stimulus you are seeking for peak 5k performance. 

For highly fit racers in the 1500m-5000m events, Tinman occasionally will schedule a workout like 3 x 1k at a near max effort with as much as ten minutes in between reps (search rxb's posts for some examples).  In a way, that workout is less "stressful" and more repeatable than a fast workout with short rest because after each rep the body is given the opportunitiy to return to homeostatis.  I would add that some of these concepts are easier to understand in cycling, for instance, where you can look at power output data, which is what really matters the most in terms of faster training (high velocity and short rest can actually result in less power output).   

To tie the neurological concept into distance running, that's another reason why we need to modulate through different paces and stimuli...initial gains from new stimuli are often neurological.  When we reach a point of diminishing returns from that new stimuli, too many runners will respond by thinking "why am I not improving as much as I did six weeks ago" and resolve to work harder (and end up digging themselves a hole), when in reality they should have simply done a better job of modulating through different stimuli. 

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Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by Tinman » Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:42 pm

It is important to understand that neural-muscular training is really training of one's brain->spinal chord-> -efferent nerves and motor units (bundles of muscle cells/fibers). Second, a window exists around a given skill's requirements that provide supplementary gains in performance with repeated practice. This window, as I call it, resides on either side of the velocity and force required to optimally carry out a movement, such as a running stride. From a neuro-muscular standpoint, the window is specific. Let me demonstrate the idea with a speed example, assuming force is constant, as follows:

Jon runs 60 flat pace for the 1500m. He wants to train the neuro-muscular element of his running performance so that he becomes more efficient - thus using less energy over a given time-frame at a given, constant speed.  So, he runs some 200's, 300's, and 400's at his 60 flat pace. If he uses fairly long recoveries, his blood stays not too far away from 7.4 mmols, which is neutral. If he shortens recovery time, while running at 60 seconds per 400m speed, he soon can't return to neutral (7.4) and his ph level drops - indicating acidosis is occurring). Once his pH level drops below 7.2, his coordination at 60 flat pace becomes flimsy/full of errors.  If Jon runs 5% slower than 60 flat pace, he still has a lot of transfer of neuor-muscular learning going on, and it helps his efficiency at 60 flat pace. And, if he runs at 57 seconds per 400m, he improves coordination too, but the problem becomes every little bit faster than 60 flat pace that Jon runs causes a lot more acidosis, and it therefore requires much longer recoveries between reps to avoid dropping the pH below 7.2, the demarcation for most runners; below which coordination falls apart.

Another element of performance is targeting the motor units that will be used to carry out a specific sustained speed - the target pace for a race. If your goal is to race at 80 seconds per 400m for a 5km race, you better work on coordination for that pace, plus or minus 5%, if you want to optimize the efficiency of the motor units that you'll be using for 80 per 400m racing. Thus, sprinting 100m at 90% speed, let's say 15 seconds per 100m, is way, way faster than the speed used in the race. Thus, it's not very helpful at producing efficient recruitment and coordination of the motor units need to run at 20 seconds per 100m, which is 80 seconds per 400m speed.

Have you ever watched a 400m runner try to race 5,000m? It's funny to watch; they lack coordination at the pace needed to run 5,000m. It's not just that they don't have a high VO2 max; their neuro-muscular / neuro-mechanical coordination is lousy at the 5,000m pace. If sprinting and very fast reps were so darn good, then 400m runners who are lean and have a strong heart should perform well in the 5,000m event, but it doesn't happen very often.  I'll give you an example: A runner on our collegiate team at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse was a below average 400m runner - he could only run 50 flat. He tried hard, did all the workouts, but he kept running 50 point something, year after year. He decided he wanted to race triathlons, so he started running a lot of distance runs and swam a lot and biked a lot too. I saw him working out all the time, it seemed like. I measured his VO2 max in the lab - he ran, only - and he reached a good number - 64, which means he should have been able to run in the mid-16's for 5,000m; if his efficiency was average for a runner. But, he ran open 5k events in about 17:45. He was very inefficient.

I had the opportunity to advise the triathlete/sprinter I am talking about. I first asked him what training he was doing. He said he was running about 40 miles per week, doing a long run of 9-10 miles on the weekend and two interval sessions on the track. He was running fast 200's, which is what he used to run all the time as a sprinter. He thought all he had to do was add distance running to his normal speed-work and he'd run a fast 5km event, after all most of the 5km guys on the team couldn't break 54 seconds in the 400m, while he could run 50 point something. He was wrong in his thinking; he didn't understand efficiency is specific; that neuro-muscular coordination is specific (within a window of about 5%). I told him to slow down by 6-8 seconds per 200m, and then jog a 100m recovery. Run sets of 3-4 reps, I said, and jog 800m between sets. Don't get tired, just work on being smooth at the slower speed, which would require a different mechanical need. He did that for 7 weeks, and racing twice during that period. At the end of 7 weeks he ran the local 5km event (it was April) and he ran 16:52, which was a fairly big improvement. I doubt he was in better shape than before; it's just that his efficiency was much better at the required speed, which was much slower than his sprinting speed.
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mathwiz1

Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by mathwiz1 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:35 am

Tom/Ap,

Your explanations make perfect since to me and I plan to incorporate some of this type of running into my schedule.  Using the idea of the 3-day rotation, which I would like to continue with, could I do the following schedule without breaking down?

M- easy run (35 min easy)
T - moderate run (35 min run with first 10 min easy, then 20 min moderate, then 5 min easy
W - harder run (35 min run with first 10 min easy, then 15 minutes at TTR pace - last mile at LT if feeling good; 5 x 100m quick!, 5 min jog
R - same as Mon
F - same as Tues
S - big run - easy first 2 miles, progressive 2.5 miler - just like Wednesday, 1 mile easy, 600's at 5k/3k pace, then 200's at 1 mile/800m pace - full recoveries; 50m - 75m hill charges - 2 mile cool down.
Sun - OFF

Knowing my strengths and weaknesses that I've explained above, would this work as a repeatable winter schedule?  My thoughts originally were to have an easy/moderate 10-miler on Saturday, but now I'm thinking that the faster stuff during the winter would work better to improve my weaknesses.  The only thing is that I want to improve my aerobic engine, not "burn-out", and be capable of running a mid-length race (say 10k - 10 miler) if I wanted.  I do not plan to race competitively again until March of 2011 after a huge flop in my half-marathon yesterday - 1:27:20 - I started the race at 6:24 for the first mile, and I knew at the 2 mile marker that I would have trouble even running a 13 miler easy - much less racing 13.1 miles.  I hit 3 miles at 19:10, 5 at 32:12, 8 at 52:21, 10 at 66:40, and I was struggling to run 7 minute pace for the 11th and 12th miles.  I attribute the failure to nutritional issues in the 24 hours leading up to the race.  I beat my body up pretty badly yesterday.  I should have dropped out, but didn't.  This coming off of my 61:28 10-miler 3 weeks ago....

Thanks!

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Re: Off-Season Training ("Base Building") Guidelines?

Post by Tinman » Sun Dec 05, 2010 2:20 pm

Mathwiz1 -

That plan looks good. I recommend, however, that you add a tempo at the end of your Saturday workout. Start with about 3 minutes at your half-marathon speed/effort and add a minute per week. I'd like to see you hit 20 minutes of tempo running by March, following some 600's at 5k-3km speed.

I recommend also that you move the short hill reps to the end of your Wednesday workout -  yet still run a mile or so cool down after the reps.

Regards,

Tinman
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