So, I talk a lot about consistent training being the key to improvements. Have you ever found a training plan that has 5 runs in the first week, then 2 the next then 3, then back to 5? Or a plan with erratic weekly mileage?
Whatever level you are at you need to be regular over weeks and months. Aerobic improvement takes time. You want to run a certain time in a big goal race. You work out the pace you should run a tempo run at and succesfully achieve it. Perhaps you want to run mile repeats at a specific pace, great this will help too. But only as part of a structured approach over months. Running one session perfectly and missing several others is not the route to improvement. So with that in mind, I think there is great value in setting yourself consistency goals.
There are two main ways you can do this. Number of runs per week or weekly mileage. I like to work in weeks, as a week feels achieveable and then to try to string succesful weeks together to monthly and even yearly goals.
When I got a bit more serious about running in 2012 I wanted to run 1500 miles in the year, 30 miles a week. By 2016 my weekly mileage was above 50 on a “good week”.
This table shows only running, so cycling (which grows at the expense of running for me most summers is not shown). Miles in red, time in grey.
I ran my best marathon in April 2016. There is no surprise that this came on the back of 6 months constant training. To give you some examples of how this can be done I’ll explain my goals for 2019.
Before I do, I think it’s really important to point out that i dont “run for the numbers”. I’m not going out for a run becase I have to hit targets, I’m running beacuse a I love getting outdoors, feeling better for it, having a bit of quite in my day, so I can eat more ice cream and fit my clothes. Running purely to achieve some essentially meaningless statistics or race times can work but only in the short term. I’ve no idea why we are hard wired to want to make our numbers “better” by our own narrow definition and feel good when we do. What is a better number anyway? After you’ve hit some targets perhaps in a race or over a month it’s easy to feel like there’s not much point doing that again, you know you can do it, so why bother? Or perhaps you’ve reached a bit of a natural limit. You can’t get your monthly mileage higher because you’lll get injured, or divorced. You’re not ready to train 2 more days a week which is what’s probably needed to get that half marathon time down. So why bother? Numbers are useful to measure what we’re doing. But it’s running that you love doing.
In 2019 the bike is being allowed to gather dust. I’ve got less time to train with toddler in tow. So I’ve set the following number goals.
- no month under 100 miles.
- 1900 miles for the year is good. 2000 is great. 37-40 miles a week average.
- 40+miles per week streaks (3 x 8weeks is good)
So, with 4 months of the year to go how am i doing?
- no month under 100. Tick.
- averaging 38.8 miles a week so far. 37.8 a week from here will get me to 2000. Tick.
- 40+ streaks. My best is 5 weeks, 4 weeks. Cross.
So before we focus on the areas for improvement, it’s always imprtant to recognise the success. I’m managing to keep the running going, every week ever after big races or when illness hits. That’s because I’m loving doing it. That’s why no month is below 100. I’m also just slightly aherad of target for the year which is great. Its no accident that I’m approaching autumn in the best shape ever for this tiem of year. My running often goes down the priority list over the summer and autumn times suffer. I hope that by keeping consistent through the year, I’ll be building from a better place when winter training starts. Well done runner me from coach me.
No, onto the fail. Weekly streaks.
When I’m planning my training I write out a plan for 8-16 weeks that doesnt dip below 40 miles. I’m capable of 50+ mile weeks. But stuff happens. I get ill, work goes nuts, sleep doesn’t happen, toddler explodes etc. and the best I’ve done is string together 5 weeks of on plan (or close to it) training in a row.
Great, I’ve found an area for improvement. If I can get 8 weeks together now before stroud half marathon all over 40, then I’m going to get gains I’ve missed out on so far.
So when youre missing a target, its important to have an honest look at things that have prevented you achieving it. Then think about how you can tweak what you do in the future to achieve these consistency goals. For me this boil down to 3 or 4 things.
1. Holidays mean time for training is reduced or routine is gone.
2. A night on the beers results in a missed days training.
3. I get ill and need to rest.
4. Unplanned work/visitors/being dad necessary when I was supposed to run.
I’ve been aware of this for years, but not active tried to manage my training to get a different outside when the unexpected hits. Sure ill tweak my plan when necessary, but I think the real problem is I have limited space in my week for running and so if a slot gets missed I don’t catch up. I think if i want to really run 5 or 6 times a week, I need to identify 7 clear slots and expect to not be able to run them all.
- Monday – tea time recovery
- Tuesday – evening club run
- Wednesday – early or lunch recovery run
- thursday – evening club run
- Friday – early run or buggy run
- Saturday – parkrun or run home if volunteer
- Sunday – long run 8am