The late Oscar Wilde once said, "Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative." Wilde was not a runner. Despite participating in a sport where tinkering, tweaking and schedule flexibility can be key to health and progression, the one quality virtually all top endurance athletes share is consistency.
Month after month of healthy, consistent training trumps short-term large jumps in volume or intensity nine times out of 10. Despite the need for consistency, many athletes find similar training cycles year after year to be filled with drudgery. This often puts athletes into intermittent ruts.
This article will focus on ways for you to address both the consistency you require for improvement and health along with the equally important variety in your running. I believe (unlike Wilde) that consistency and the imaginative need not be mutually exclusive.
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Change Your Venue
For 10 years, I have been promoting the psychological benefits of utilizing numerous training venues, as opposed to hitting the same park or road loops day after day. While a small change, such as doing your tempo run in a different neighborhood, your long run in a new park or your track session at a different school, may seem inconsequential—you would indeed be surprised at how refreshing this small change can be.
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Mask Your Session (A Rose By Any Other Name)
We are creatures of habit, as much as any on earth. And because we are conditioned by our habits, as runners we are commonly drawn toward the same type of workouts throughout the year—400-meter repeats for intervals, four-mile flat, steady runs for tempo, 800-meter pick-ups for speed-based endurance and so on.
Much the way we do our best to implement some freshness in training by finding new venues, we must also change the look of training for each cycle so we can achieve similar physiological needs without getting bogged down by the same workouts year round. Below are some suggestions:
Common Workout: 10 x 400 meters
Alternative Suggestion: effort-based pick-ups of 1:30/1:15/1:00 @ 95 percent effort on a flat or even slightly downhill segment with 60 seconds between pick-ups and 3 to 4 minutes between sets. Try three sets.
Common Workout: 4- or 5-mile tempo run
Alternative Suggestion: mile repeats with short rest (75 seconds or less). Physiologically, there is virtually no difference between the two. It's important in this segment to keep your heart rate between 85 to 90 percent of max (steady, but not all out).
Common Workout: longer moderate sub-threshold run (80 percent of max effort) for 40 to 45 minutes
Alternative Suggestion: moderate pick-ups (30 seconds per mile slower than current 10K race pace) of 5:45 – 4:45 – 3:45 – 2:45 – 1:45 – 45 seconds x 2 sets with 75 seconds recovery between each set.
The above sessions are just like your favorites, but simply masked as something new. Once again, the main idea here is to give you a fresh look at your training. Former world mile record-holder Filbert Bayi of Tanzania once said, "I have done the same training sessions hundreds of times, and yet none were the same."
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