And so it begins, again. As I was shoveling the 8” of new snow from our deck recently, I realized a transition was taking place. Another season, another week, another month, another year. My run later in the day reflected a transition of my own; that steady climb out of a period of active rest (a lot of hiking) to a running schedule with a goal looking into 2019. A schedule that is personal, individual.
I believe that by far the greatest contribution in the world of running and peak performance has to do with the individualization of a training strategy. Macro, meso, and micro training schedules that reflect; age, gender, fitness level, time to train, years of experience, and running goals.
Looking back, many of us grew up running and training with groups. What the group did, we did. Was this approach to training wrong? Not entirely. There are many benefits to running with groups. It is there we find community, connection, and friendships. But if we do as the group does, it may not fit and if it doesn’t, it may add to a decrease in fitness accompanied with an increase in risk of injury.
When speaking at running clinics, I use the bell curve to address this issue. When we train with others, using the group training plan, we fall somewhere on the bell curve. For some, the workout won’t be hard enough. For some, it will be just right. For others, it will be too hard. Only the strong will survive. The better runners won’t be pushed hard enough. The middle of the pack will have their training demands met. The “not-so-fast” crowd will be pushed too hard.
Is it ok to run with groups? Absolutely. If, the workout meets your scheduled run. For example, if I have a day of sub max work, a 6 – 7 mile run at a pace that is below tempo pace, and the group run is for that distance, and their pace reflects my pace, then all is well. We must guard our pace and our workout objective. If we don’t, often this happens; we get with a group, we warm up, pace picks up, conversation begins to wane, and all of a sudden we are running above a tempo pace that upon finish will take days to recover from. A good workout? Maybe. But it may not be in sync with our workout strategy and training cycle schedule.
Thanks to all the pioneers, (Lydiard, Bowerman, Daniels, etc) that had the courage to use what lab data they had access to in training their elite athletes. Individualization of training strategies, within their training cylces, was (and is) a common denominator in crossing the finish line with a peak performance.
When running with others, let’s be checking our pace and workout objective to confirm a match with our training cycles. If it fits, enjoy! If not, step aside and go solo. Individualization within a macro, meso and micro cycle is key.
Until next time, enjoy the run!