Basically- that is the longest blog title ever. But it's so true. Your body/your training are unique to you. And in order to get the max out of yourself- you (or a coach you're training with) have to figure out what works for you. Until you do, you may be working against your body, causing yourself to regress, getting injured, or just frustrating yourself by not improving.
SO HOW DO YOU FIGURE OUT THIS TRAINING PUZZLE?
1. Listen to your body. MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN TAKE OUT OF TRAINING. Be body intuitive. Listen to your body. You know your body more than any training plan does. Your training plan may not know about that poor night of sleep you had- or how that last week of training took a little too much out of you and your legs feel like lead- but you know this- and you can listen to what is going on with your body and respond to it.
2. High Mileage v. Low Mileage. Honestly - this is something best assessed with your coach (ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE A GREEN RUNNER). High mileage should really only be attempted if you have been running for quite a while, have built up a base and been running comfortably at that base, and have adequate time for the recovery necessary for high mileage. That being said, you can get faster on low mileage. I have found this out over the last year. All the mileage in the world does not matter if you aren't able to get in there and get some fast miles. If you're too tired from all the miles you're running, you're probably not able to run really fast on your speed days- and that (I believe) is how you get faster.
3. Recovery. Everyone's recovery and what they need is different. Don't go by what works for someone else. Make your recovery specific to you. How many hours of sleep you need, the amount of days between your workouts, etc. EVERYONE RECOVERS AT A DIFFERENT PACE. So don't compare what you need to recover to what someone else seems to get by with.
4. Speed. Speed/tempo is the only way you're gonna get faster, y'all. But if you're tired from too hard of training or too much training for what you're able to handle, then you won't be able to run fast and ever tap into that speed. THIS IS KEY. Training is basically a balance between running your hardest workouts, recovery, and then feeling fresh enough to do it all again. That's how you improve. I didn't really understand this until this last year- it's a simple formula really. And it's a formula you want to use to your benefit. Get the most out of yourself by starting out your workouts recovered from your last workouts, and ready to hit some serious speed. That being said- if I'm feeling flat or unusually fatigued at my second workout of the week, I'll back it down the next week and just do one workout until I feel like I have my legs underneath me again and am running like myself.
5. Make Easy, EASYYYY. So you run hard on speed day, what do you do the next day? RUN EASY. Active Recovery. Listen to your body and run as SLOW as you need to. No shame in my game, y'all. (I qualified for Boston my first time by legit running slower than 10 minute miles on the treadmill 4 days a week and running one long run a week at Lake Miramar and finishing it fast. I was able to run my longer runs harder and qualify for Boston on not a lot of miles or that much speed, because the rest of the time was easy peasy.) Your recovery pace should be about 2 minutes slower than your half marathon pace (this isn't an exact number - but can be used to help you reign yourself back and keep it easy). If you're working hard every single workout, and pushing every workout, you're showing up for the days when you really need to work with less to give- basically defeating the whole purpose of that workout date. Maximize your results on speed/tempo days by taking the other days easy. Just listen to your body- if it's dragging the day after a hard run- let it- just run easy and get those legs moving. It's still working your systems- but not taxing them unnecessarily. I'm the QUEEN of easy running- and still do a majority of my runs at 9:30 pace- but it has let me run much harder on my speed & tempo days. I know I would show up with less to give on speed days if I was set on running a harder pace for me on my easy days.
6. How many workouts a week??! This is another "listen to your body" item. But really. Start at one. And then stay there for awhile- see how you're doing with that one and once you feel like you're on firm ground with that- you can add another. You CAN improve with just one hard workout a week. So especially if you're just starting- just stick with one hard workout- and make it a good one. Once you get acclimated to the load you've taken on, you can add more to it. But ACCLIMITIZATION is KEYYY! If you're not acclimatizing, you're drowning. (Hello, Boston Training for me!) The point of training is not to literally drown yourself in the workload you're taking on. Sure, it should feel hard. But it should be doable- because there is a structure in place to tax the system- and then recover and built it back up in time to tax it again. If you're taxing it to a breaking point, you've gone over the line- and it's too much! And you won't improve. You'll probably take steps back in the progress you've already made. And who wants that?! The point in working harder is not to get slower, right?? (Guys- THIS IS VERY POSSIBLE hahah.)
7. The key is work as hard as you can & recover as hard as you can! Training is all about riding that line of how much you can add to the workload (to facilitate improvement) without breaking. How hard can you push your workouts? How much time do you need in between before you can do another hard workouts? These are all the questions that you can only determine from trial & error.
8. Talk to people. I have learned so much by talking to people and learning about their training. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs is right!) I love hearing about what has worked for people and their take on training. It's crazy how there are a million ways to get faster. And what works for one person, may not work for you- which is why there are like hundreds if not thousands of run training plans out there. But I love hearing the different journeys because maybe something in there will be just that piece of the puzzle that I'm missing in my journey to getting the most out of myself.
Sadlyyyyy, I am sick post- SD HALF. Gah. It's only frustrating because I feel like my training for this entire season has been interrupted SO many times by being sick. All I can do is what I can do: sleep, eat well, try to rest, gave myself a break from running these last two days, etc. Trusting God that my immune system pulls out of this weird slump it's been in. I decided to skip speed (hahah, "decided" as if I had a choice in the matter and that a "speed" workout wouldn't look like a power walk) this week- because I was feeling SO ill. And at this point, I have pushed off tempo to Sunday to give me one extra day to recover. I'm just chomping at the bit over here to get on to 5k specific workouts for Carlsbad on April 2nd... but ya know- they say Patience is a virtue. ;-)
Hope you got out there & got to run- and I hope it was REALLY great.