Friday, February 10, 2012

Some thoughts about training.

Not sure whether I should post this. But I am on a plane, and for once I think I am pretty much up to date with things on this here blog, the book I am reading doesn’t interest me that much, so I thought about writing about my training, and some of my philosophies.

Why am I not sure that I should post this? Well, every runner is different, and different things work for them, so I would hate it if someone followed the “Jimbo method”, and as a result bolloxed up a race.

Disclaimer: I can be opinionated with stuff. But these are just my opinions. Mine. I have learned this stuff by just doing it myself and figuring this out for myself. I have learned what works for me. Feel free to have your own opinions.

That said…… here we go:

“Think of effort before pace” – Easy, medium, hard, maximum. A hard effort run in the summer will probably mean you are running at a slower pace than a hard effort run when it is cool – but will still yield just as good results. A 10 minute pace up a hill is more effort than a 10 minute pace down a hill (Durr!) If I run on pace alone, then I might not get the training benefit I want or need. Also, learning to gauge my effort levels mean that during a race, I stick at a steady effort – which will mean faster at the beginning, slower going up hills etc, but (hopefully) meaning I have enough energy at the end for a good finish.

“The more you run the better you get” – No shit Sherlock. And yet almost weekly, I get an email from Runners World, “Train Less, Run Faster”. Does anyone fall for that crap? Really. No, the more I run the better I will get. What do I mean by better? If I run more, I will be able to endure more – run further.

“If you want to run long, then you need to practice running long” – Kinda like the one above really. And kinda obvious.

“If you want to run fast, then you need to practice running fast” – Well yes, precisely. By running fast, I mean short hard intervals or the maximum effort level for the distance you are running, (this of course doesn’t pertain to junk miles (see below) or long runs). I have never got the principle behind “Tempo Runs”. WTF is the point of running 5 miles at goal marathon pace? Why not run 5 miles at 5 mile pace? And if you want to run at marathon pace, then run a damn marathon. (Probably controversial – see disclaimer above)

All of that said – let’s get to junk miles……

If you read the UltraList, then you will know that this is a controversial topic. Junk Miles – miles that (according to many) are a waste of time. In other words, there is a large segment of the running community that believe if any given run doesn’t have specific pace or specific goals in mind, then they are a waste of time (some say even detrimental). I say bullshit. (See my first point – the more I run, the better I get – also, read disclaimer again). I like running, I have fun running, so if I want to plod around for a few very easy miles, then that is precisely what I will do.

I don’t use a training routine. – I don’t like them. They are a waste of time for me, because I would probably not follow it. Besides, they say things like “Tuesday - 4 mile tempo” – well, what happens if I don’t want to do a 4 mile tempo run, and I want to do a 8 mile jog?

Hill Training. – Another one that most training routines don’t seem to get right. Most of them will say something like “Run hard up the hill, recover on the way down”. Errrr no – I say, it is more beneficial to run hard down the hill, and power hike back up. Don’t get me wrong though, there are some benefits to running hard up hills – it is kind of like strength training for the calf muscles. But I always find that working the quads running hard down hills is of greater benefit.

Now, onto long runs, LSD. Yes, I need to do long runs – they can’t be avoided – see points 1 and 2 above. I have a solid principle behind my long runs – the principle is “The Four E’s” (Or running “For Ease”). And here are The Four E’s

  1. Endurance – time on feet, it gives my body and muscles practice at just moving for long periods of time.
  2. Exercise – Have you ever seen me? Or heard about my fondness for bacon? Yep – I need to burn calories.
  3. Experimentation – Where else am I going to learn about the hydration, nutrition I will need, the type of clothing, shoes, lube I will use. Long runs are the time to learn this stuff – not on race day (That said, I do run races as training runs too – I am not one of those who put on a race number and feel as though I have to race – it is, in my opinion, perfectly reasonable to use a race as LSD. )
  4. Enjoyment – the big one. If I don’t enjoy it, then what is the point? Run with friends, run alone, run on beautiful trails, run with music or without, stop and smell the flowers, but just run for fun. If I have fun, then I will run more – and the more I run, the better I get.

Now – a little bit about running streaks. I like running every day. Even if it is just a mile to keep the streak alive. I find that I really do not want to stop my streak, so I force myself to go out. Almost every time, I find myself enjoying the run, so I will end up running more. In other words, it is way easier to find an excuse to go and run when you have a streak going. On the other hand, if don’t have a streak going, then it can be pretty easy to find an excuse NOT to run (too cold, too hot, too tired etc etc). That said, I do stop streaks when I am tapering for a goal race. There are people who have run every day for decades, so I am not a “proper” streaker.

Running in the heat – the training benefits of running through the summer are huge! I meet the heat, and do not go out of my way to beat the heat. It is no surprise to me that most of my PR’s happen in the fall after running through several sufferfests through the summer.

So, I like to think that for my short/fast runs, I am training for my fastest ever 5k, and my long runs as if I am training for my slowest ever marathon.

Notice I didn’t define the distances that define short or long runs? Probably because I think it is hard to put a distance to it. I have ran 3 or 4 miles, and treated just like a 4E long run, I have also done marathons or 50k’s at maximum effort (for the distance, but that is racing) – (maybe that’s what a tempo run is???). So, in short, a long run can be shorter than a short run and a short run can be longer than a long run, and that is basically the long and short of it. (WTF Jimbo?)

My plane is just about to land so – that will do for now.

So, there you have it. The Jimbo Method.


  1. Very nice post. I think we are from the same school. I seriously don't believe in junk miles. In fact, I haven't really heard that term. But all miles are worthwhile as far as I'm concerned. The only place I really differ is the downhill/uphill part. I used to think power the downhills. But I found in races when I passed someone on the downhill, they most likely eventually passed me on the uphill. BUT if I pass someone on the uphill, they rarely pass me.

    Again, loved this post!

  2. Thanks Lauren - I like the phrase "the only junk mile is the mile not ran". I power the downhills in training purely to strengthen the quads so they don't get all fried on race day - that said, you are right, there is nothing wrong with training to run hard up hill too!

  3. your blog is gold. i will do "junk" miles if it means i get a round number for the weekly mileage ~ 40, 50, 20... whatever. i will jog junk miles so slow that i could probably walk them faster... and it works. i do one interval run, one "long/easy" run, and the rest slow, easy, moderate to short runs all week... and i got my first 100-mile finish last fall (after 3 dnf's...) at Wasatch. well written. carry on.