Sunday, February 19, 2012

Current Fitness and Training Plans

Ok, so before I continue on with verbose explorations of etymology and other philosophical inquiries, I thought I should discuss my actual training, as this is mostly meant to be a blog about my athletic endeavors. I'll go back to defining and labeling things in future entries, so stay tuned all you word geeks.

The Winter of My Content

Well, I just wrapped up my Nordic ski season and my ninth year as a high school coach. It's always a ton of fun to work with kids, teach them to ski, and get to ski with them. It's great training for me, because I have to be there everyday, and it's one of the few sports where the coach gets to do the workouts with the kids. I typically love the preseason the most when we're dryland training, mostly because I get to spend the most time working out and getting to know the kids. Once we get snow, I do a lot of standing around coaching technique, spend countless hours waxing skis for meets, and freeze my arse off during meets, usually standing at the top of the biggest hill cheering the kids on.  Cheering is great fun, the arse freezing part is not. Needless to say, I don't get to train nearly as much once we're on snow, but this year was different. We didn't have a single meet on real snow due to the crazy warm winter we're having, and most of our workouts were running with poles. Truly, we should have changed our team name to the Nordic Pole Running Team. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed it, because for the first time in my life, I've wanted to run more than ski, and I got my wish.

The whole season was a grand experiment. I had started more seriously with minimalist running at the end of the summer, and couldn't get more than 2.5 miles on any given run before my calves blew up. It wasn't until a very informational and educational running mechanics session with JoeDPT in October that finally gave me some insight and better form. Thus, going into the ski season, when I knew I would need to run everyday for an hour-and-a-half including hard intervals on trails, gave me pause for concern, to say the least. It was, however, an amazing breakthrough. I was forced to pay attention to my form and improve so that I'd be able to run the next day. After only a week or two, I was running blistering lactate threshold intervals with the varsity boys, and keeping up relatively well! I was adapting, and getting really fit in the process. The trail system is also quite enjoyable.

Once the meet season started I didn't get to run as much, but I didn't seem to lose too much of my fitness. It was only in the last three or so weeks of the season when we made a point to get practice time on snow at one of the various snow-making facilities that my running legs suffered a little. My first major postseason run was last week, and it definitely killed my calves for a few days.

Since then, I've been out running regularly, and all is well. Yesterday I did a 4-mile tempo run at 6:54 pace, which is by far the fastest pace I've run, and for a tempo that's longer than any I've done before. Today I did an almost 7-miler at an even 8min pace in my Vibram KSOs, mainly because my Merrel Trail Gloves were bothering the top of my left foot. I've been doing all my running (through the ski season and now) in my Trail Gloves until today. The VFFs were ok, but they always hurt my pinky toes, and I stumbled twice on my run today, tearing a small hole in the top of the left big toe. I'm not digging them, but I think it might be because I had socks on too. They work best without socks. In any case, I'm extremely happy with where I am in my training, and am excited to continue on.

What's Coming

So I came to the realization that I should probably consider an actual training plan for my half marathon in April and the 25km trail race in May. I've always been Jekyll and Hyde with this type of thing, because exercising is how I let go of all the stress from constantly planning things in my teaching and with my personal life, and yet I am a planner and love efficiency and maximizing output. Part of me wants to just be mindful of the variety I should have in my training and just go with what I feel I want and should do that day, and part of me feels I should set up a more regimented plan. Considering that my life shifts so often, I've given up complex plans and decided on a few steady routines and flexible options surrounding them in order to reach my goals. Before I go any further, I suppose I should pause and consider my goals:

1) Be able to climb some 5.11's in the gym before the Black Hills trip Memorial Day weekend
2) Run a steady 8min/mi pace at the half marathon (that may be adjusted later)
3) Finish the trail race in 2:30 or under (average 10min/mi pace)
4) Have fun! This includes my training.
5) Use all of this as an excuse to eat lots of delicious food and drink more beer

At this point, I figure I'll organize my workouts around a routine long run each weekend, loosely following the add-one-mile-per-week plan that many marathoners do. In between, I shall consider and do some or all of the following:
- climbing (this is a passion I won't neglect, and plan to climb twice a week)
- tempo runs (3-5 miles)
- hill repeats
- intervals, mostly over/under LT (alternating with tempo runs)
  **description at bottom
- strength/circuits - I don't have access to a gym, so this will be body weight
  exercises, MovNat type stuff, and plyometrics
- Parkour? - I've gotten out of this in the last year, but find that it could be a
  great way to crosstrain, focusing on strength and power in the leg-based

Once the trails open up and aren't covered with packed ice, I'll be running mostly on trail, and I'm quite excited for the ski areas to close for the winter season and dry up so that I can do some big hill work there. Overall, I'm not worried about the half marathon, but more concerned with the trail race. I'll need to do some serious hill work to get ready for the elevation change. That shouldn't be too hard though, because I'm most excited and motivated for that one, and I like hills.

From my perspective, the mainstays of speed, strength, and distance need to be addressed, but I feel strongly that variety is important, and a body forced to adapt to different types of movement is a healthy one. Keeping your body guessing is a good way to maximize it's usability. Although I won't consider climbing to be a direct part of my running training, I know that it will help to diversify my strengths, and will also give my legs a chance to recover from running while still getting a workout.

So that's it. A loose plan it is! As I said before, exercise is my way to let go, so I'm not gonna stress out too much about it, at least not until I decide that I'm ready to be a serious competitor...with other people. I'm always a serious competitor with myself.

Until next time!  Prost!

**Over/unders - This is a lactate threshold interval workout designed to raise your lactate threshold (LT) and let you perform at a higher heart rate for longer periods of time. You need to have some idea of what your LT is, however. You can either have it measured (there are various ways to do this, most of which cost money), or you can get a general feel for it after a while by noticing the point at which you start to "huff and puff," leading soon after to the burning sensation in your muscles. With this workout, you start by running 4min just under your LT, building in that time to 2min of just above your LT. Drop down for 4 again, above for 2, and repeat once more. That's one set. Do ten minutes of *easy* jogging as recovery and then do another set. If you're a beast, do three sets. These can result in huge gains if done correctly, and it's friggin hard. Good luck!


  1. Hi Matt -- Here is another race you can add to your schedule, which would be perfect for you -- combining trail running, parkour . . . . . and dodging undead.

  2. Dude . . . stop teaching right now and go run.