Sometimes, you forget what it’s like to be a beginner. You can practice something so consistently that it becomes second nature, an ingrained habit that you never have to think about. This week, a friend at work told me that she has just started running. And being the resident Running Club Captain (self appointed title), I got overly excited at the prospect of a new recruit for the team, and started quizzing her to see if she is enjoying it/does she want to come to running club/will she be my new running buddy etc.
Despite her visible concern at my ridiculous enthusiasm on the topic, we had a great chat about starting out with your first running programme, and some ways to ease into things slowly to both prevent injury and maintain enthusiasm in order to make the new habit stick. And it got me thinking; I’ve been tangled in a web of base/build/peak for so long, that it’s been a while since I last referred back to basics.
My chat with Sal prompted me to look up a few tips that I could pass on, but in doing so it’s allowed me a fresh perspective on my own training; being a bit of a text book nerd, I referred back to my well-thumbed copy of Lore of Running by Tim Noakes. This book is a heavyweight (literally and metaphorically), and Tim Noakes is an all round boss when it comes to the science of sport. Here are his 15 laws of training that he recommends to those developing a training foundation:
15 Laws of Training According to Tim Noakes:
1) Train frequently, all year round.
2) Start gradually and train gently.
3) Train first for distance, later for speed.
4) Don’t set your daily training schedule in stone.
5) Alternate hard and easy training.
6) Initially, aim to achieve as much as possible on minimum training.
7) Don’t race when you’re training or run at race pace for further than 16km.
9) Incorporate base training and peaking.
10) Don’t overtrain.
11) Train with a coach.
12) Train the mind.
13) Rest before a big race.
14) Keep a detailed logbook.
15) Understand the holism of training.
And there it is. Everything. This list (along with his detailed analysis to accompany each point) is the key to becoming a successful runner/athlete. I went through each point on the list and read the accompanying paragraphs, and it felt so reassuring to think about training from this perspective. The temptation is always to overcomplicate and overtrain. But there is an elegance to this refined directive that made me feel reassured; after a couple of months off, my journey back to fitness has been similar to what it felt like when I first started running. But being consistent (1), taking a slow and steady approach (2), covering the distance before I can cover it fast (3) and allowing myself some flexibility in my schedule in order to listen to my body (4) have all been key to regaining strength and fitness.
Just thinking about training in these terms – instead of panicing about intervals that I haven’t been able to do, or tough sessions that I have had to replace with a ‘slow and steady’ option due to pain or sickness – has brought me a wonderful calm feeling. Which leads on wonderfully to point number 15: understand the holism of training – “…balance a commitment to running to all other components of life – family, work, recreation and other relationships…”.
On that note, I’m going to put my feet up and relax.