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Smarter, not Harder!

Many runners race often and expect their best results and PR’s every outing. This happens throughout training too. Always wanting that next rep to be a little bit faster, or that next run to be a little bit longer. A lot of runners believe that “the harder you train, the faster you will run”. Even though so much evidence concludes this statement as untrue. When things aren’t going well, we train harder and more often than not it leads to a decrease in performance. The most common interpretation is that the bad performance was because we didn’t train hard enough… thus continuing the cycle.

The concept of training smarter, rather than harder has been around for a while and is still overlooked. Ideally our training is made up of stress, recovery and repetition. Placing constant stress on the body without recovery can lead to athletes becoming overtrained. Symptoms of overtraining can include trouble sleeping, depression, lack of appetite and decreased sex drive.

We cannot adapt to constant stress placed on our bodies, no matter how badly we want it!

Planning your racing season and how training fits around that is a great way to stay smart. This will direct your race build up and peak.

A coaching philosophy I admire is the simplicity of Arthur Lydiard. He believed that aiming to reach peak more than 2-3 times in a year was counterproductive. This would likely lead to smaller and shorter bouts of peak.

His theory describes “periodisation training”. This is best demonstrated in a pyramid. The “base” is the longest and most important stage according to Lydiard. This base phase develops and establishes aerobic fitness and can last up to 5 months. This gradually progresses up the pyramid, through a sequence of strength, speed and most importantly, peak phase. If any stage is skipped, i.e if you jump straight into speed training, you will see an increase initially in fitness that will be met with a lower ceiling compared to someone that has developed through the base and strength phase prior.

Periodisation can prepare and keep us focused on our goal. It will ensure a gradual development of fitness which can help avoid overtraining.

Day-to-day hacks to prevent overtraining: Set a goal! Use periodisation to plan training around this goal. Listen to your body! Appreciate advice from peers and coaches. Schedule in rests. Ensure hard days are hard and easy days are easy!

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